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SO.ME 
OF FMNCE 




MADAME DE STAEL 



SOME WOMEN 
OF FRANCE 



By 
PAUL BAflRON WATSON 

Author of 

"Marcus Aurelius Antoninus" 

"Swedish Revolution under Gustavus Vascf 

"Tales of Ncrmandie" 



New Yorfc 
COWARD-McCANN, fnc. 



Copyright 1936, 

By Coward-McCann, Inc. 

All rights reserved 



jt A 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



FOREWORD 



T 

J-H1 



-HE handful of essays contained in this little volume 
has no other purpose than to whet one's appetite for more 
elaborate studies. They were compiled merely as a pastime by 
a busy lawyer who loves France and admires many of the traits 
of French people. There are certain things about the French 
which Anglo-Saxons do not readily comprehend. Chief of 
these is the extraordinary influence which women have exerted 
in almost every period of French history. To some extent 
this is due to innate characteristics of the Latin races. They 
are people of warm emotions. But the main reason why 



vi FOREWORD 

French women have been able to play a leading part is that 
they are carefully educated in those things which in the natu 
ral order of events will be the chief preoccupation of their 
lives. Appreciation of art and architecture, correct diction, 
posture, the art of conversation, social amenities of every kind, 
are fundamentals of every French girl's training. Of still 
greater importances every girl, before her schooling is ended, 
has an exhaustive knowledge of her country's literature. She 
can read, if not speak, English and Italian. And, above all, 
she has acquired skill in literary composition. The humblest 
seamstress in France can write a letter which reminds one of 
madame de Sevigne. Then, too, most French women are dis 
tinguished by an intense enthusiasm for their native land. 
Beginning with Jeanne d'Arc and running through the days of 
the Revolution, when madame Roland was sacrificed on the 
scaffold, women have vied with men in deeds of heroic cour 
age. Female heroism stands forth almost as a national cult. 
To record the doings of all those women who have added 
luster to France would not be possible in a single book. The 
women whose lives are herein pictured are no more famous 
than many others. Most of them have been chosen for dis 
cussion simply because they do not seem to the writer to 
have been adequately treated in other works. 



CONTENTS 



H L O 7 5 E 

page 1 

ISABEAU de BAVI&RE 
page 23 

MADAME du DEFFAND 

page 45 

MADAME de STAEL 
page 97 

DELPHI NE GAY 
page 149 

MARIE d'AGOULT 
page 181 

JULIETTE LAMBER 
page 217 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



MADAME de STAEL 
Frontispiece 

MADAME du DEFFAND 
Facing page 46 

DELPHINE GAY 

Facing page 150 

MARIE d'AGOULT 
Facing page 182 

JULIETTE LAMBER 
Facing page 218 





mi 
OF mm 





HELOISg 




THE story of Abelard and Heloi'se belongs to a period only 
two hundred years after the history of the French nation 
began. There was then no capital of France, the king making 
his headquarters sometimes at Orleans, sometimes at Com- 
piegne, more rarely at Paris. Louis VII, weak and irreso 
lute, was king. None of the present cathedrals had been begun 
and there were then no schools. There was no political cohe 
sion of the country, the king's authority being nominal rather 
than real, some of his vassals having greater power than 

himself. Paris was little larger in population than some of 

l 



2 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

the other towns, but it was beginning to rise in importance 
through its cathedral which was soon to be demolished to 
make place for the present cathedral of Notre-Dame. The 
only power that was universally acknowledged was the 
Church, and a mighty power it was because it was only 
through the Church that men and women could learn to read 
and write. Outside the Church there was no such thing as 
books. People, bathed in superstition, flocked to churches and 
saw robed priests and dignitaries reading from illuminated 
parchments which seemed to them as mystical as the great 
edifices of modern times would seem to the wild inhabitants 
of central Africa. The holders of these ecclesiastical offices, 
in the eyes of the people, were supermen. All others be 
longed to a different class of humanity between whom and 
these mystical supermen existed an almost impenetrable gulf. 
Abelard, born in 1079, was the first person of prominence 
to take active measures to build a bridge across this gulf. 
There is no question that he Was influential in at least inspir 
ing people with a zeal to acquire learning outside the sacred 
precincts. Driven from his priestly duties because of insurrec 
tion he used his oratorical gifts to enlighten people who came 
to hear him lecture; and his boldness in denouncing some of 
the Church doctrines was the forerunner of a freedom of 
discussion which four centuries later brought about the Ref 
ormation. 




ALL the love-stories that have come down to us in 
history or in fiction none has thrilled more hearts than the 
story of Abelard and Heloise. For nearly eight hundred years 
the bodies of these passionate lovers have been cold, but men 
still visit the cemetery of Pere-Lachaise and place their gar 
lands on the famous tomb to prove their admiration for 
undying love. 

To become acquainted with this drama we do not have to 
rely on hostile critics or on sympathetic friends. It is all 
unfolded in a bundle of letters that passed between the lovers 

twenty years after the episode was closed; and it is safe to say 

3 



4 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

no love-story was ever told with greater pathos or with less 
desire to gloss over the painful incidents of a cruel fate. 
Those letters have always ranked high as specimens of 
medieval literature, but they are valuable above all else 
because they disclose with unrivalled clarity the depth and 
fulness of a woman's love. 

It was no ordinary suitor to whom Heloise gave her heart. 
When she first met Abelard he was already a distinguished 
man. Scion of a well-to-do Breton family, from early youth 
he had been fired with a zeal for scholarship. Leaving home 
at fifteen, he had wandered from place to place in search of 
education. Schools in the modern sense were then unknown. 
Charlemagne's ideas of kingly responsibility had long been 
laid aside and the state had abandoned every effort to educate 
the people. Learning was to be found nowhere except within 
the Church, and education was deemed a matter with 
which the public had no concern. Only in the monasteries was 
there anything to be called a school, and it was to these 
monasteries that Abelard, in his thirst for knowledge, turned 
his steps. 

According to his own assertion the branch of knowledge 
which interested him most was dialectics, or the art of dispu 
tation. So it was not long before he wended his way to Paris, 
to the school of Notre-Dame, presided over by Guillaume de 
Champeaux, who had the reputation of being the greatest 
dialectician of his time. Soon he became exasperated by the 
futility of this school, where the main topic of discussion was 
whether individuals have any existence apart from the mind. 



HfiLOlSE 5 

Though little more than a boy he did not hesitate to dissent 
from the arguments of the learned teacher and to tell him 
to his face that what he said was "nothing hut words," As 
he might have contemplated, this brought his schooling to a 
close. 

Then he opened a school of his own at Melun where he 
found many pupils eager to hear his lectures. After a short 
period he moved to Corbeil just outside of Paris. There his 
health broke down and he returned to Bretagne to regain his 
strength. 

Coming back to Paris a few years later he found things 
greatly changed. Guillaume de Champeaux was no longer 
there, and the chair at Notre-Dame was offered to Abelard. 
He did not hold it long, however, and after another short 
sojourn at Melun he opened a school at Sainte-Genevieve on 
the left bank of the Seine and just across from Paris. 

About this time he learned that his father had become a 
monk and his mother was about to enter a convent. He caught 
the prevailing craze himself and determined to study theol 
ogy. With that in view he went to Laon and after a most 
superficial preparation began to lecture on the Scriptures. 
This so irritated the clergy at Laon that he returned to Paris 
and held himself out as a full-fledged lecturer on the doc 
trines of the Church. 

Paris was now becoming a cosmopolitan city where any 
one with new ideas was sure to get a hearing. Abelard had 
already proved himself an original thinker who did not hesi 
tate to attack accepted beliefs, and he was quick to see that as 



6 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

a public lecturer a conflict with those in authority would 
increase his fame. He therefore took a stand in theological 
matters which differed somewhat from the ordinary teach 
ing. He did not deny the dogmas of the Church, but he as 
serted that the Christian faith was to be reached through 
the intellect and not accepted simply because adopted by the 
fathers of the Church. Naturally this aroused the ire of the 
ecclesiastics, but it did not detract from Abelard's reputation 
as a public speaker. 

The fact was, he had caught the ear of the people, and it 
was not long before he was the idol of Paris. By his eloquence 
and magnetic power he became the most popular lecturer of 
his time, and thousands of people flocked each day to listen 
to his words. 

Up to this time he had lived the life of an ascetic. All his 
hours had been spent in rigorous and exhausting study. As he 
put it, he had been educated "in the lap of Minerva." An 
overweening ambition for applause had excluded him from 
the pursuit of pleasure, and he had never allowed himself to 
swerve from his resolution to acquire fame as a scholar. 
All the emotions of youth had been repressed until he reached 
the pinnacle of his fame, and then they suddenly burst forth 
in a torrent which could not be stayed. 

He was thirty-nine years of age when there appeared 
among his pupils a young girl of eighteen whose uncle was a 
canon of Notre-Dame one of the places where Abelard 
had lectured. She had been educated with the greatest care 
and had shown extraordinary aptitude for learning. In 



HtiLOlSE 7 

Abelard's words, "In face she was not inferior to other 
women, and in the abundance of her learning she was su 
preme." That was his estimate of her penned twenty years 
later. It is a meager portrait of Heloise when she first came 
into Abelard's life. Keen as her intellect was, she was above 
all else a creature of flesh and blood in whom the outstanding 
characteristic was a capacity for overwhelming love. 

From the moment when she first saw Abelard she was 
ready to throw herself at his feet. Captivated by his elo 
quence, and thrilled by the grace of his personality, he 
seemed to her a god. "Who among kings or philosophers 
could equal you in fame? What kingdom or city or village 
did not burn to see you, and who, I ask, did not hasten to gaze 
upon you with straining eye? What maid or matron did not 
yearn for you in your absence, or burn when you were 
present?" 

Abelard would have been less than human had he not been 
flattered by her adulation. He had no thought of marriage. 
According to accepted practice philosophers and theologians 
did not take upon themselves the burden of domestic ties. To 
do so would have caused derision and brought Abelard's 
success as a debater to a close. But he wanted this fascinating 
and rapturous woman, and, as he himself admits, was bent 
on her seduction. That was so customary a proceeding in 
those days that it would have excited little comment. But 
Heloise was under the guardianship of a rigid uncle who 
never allowed her to escape his watchful eye. One thing the 
canon desired above all else to train his niece's mind 



8 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

and so, in a moment of unwariness he consented to take Abe- 
lard under his roof with the understanding that Heloise was to 
be his pupil. Needless to say, the atmosphere was not con 
ducive to study, and it was not long before Helo'ise found her 
self with child. To escape the uncle's wrath Abelard spirited 
her away and left her at his ancestral home in Bretagne where 
she gave birth to a boy. Knowing that the situation must 
sooner or later be disclosed, Abelard made bold to face the 
canon and offered to marry Heloise on condition that the 
marriage be kept secret. By this proposal he expected to avert 
the storm. But when he broached the project to Helo'ise she 
pleaded with him to give it up. Ignoring her own humiliation, 
she urged him not to marry, since it might hamper his career. 
The burden of a household would distract his thoughts. She 
was his to do with as he would, but he must not be weighted 
down with the duty of caring for her support. Much as he 
would have liked to shirk responsibility, he dared not brook 
the canon's wrath. He therefore married her and left her in 
her uncle's house. 

Apparently Abelard's ardor had now cooled and he cast 
about for some method of shaking off the yoke. With heart 
less disregard of the young girl's preferences he persuaded 
her to enter a convent, hoping in that way to regain his free 
dom. But a dreadful punishment awaited him for his brutal 
ity. The canon's friends resolved to have their revenge. One 
night while he was sleeping several of them entered his house, 
overpowered him, and before leaving they had wreaked their 



H6LOISE 9 

vengeance on him in a manner that left it in his power no 
longer to incur the canon's wrath. 

To hide his shame Abelard retired to the abbey of Saint- 
Denis and became a monk. 

It was not long before this stormy petrel became involved 
in controversy with the abbot of Saint-Denis. He was sum 
moned before a council of the Church at Soissons because of 
a book which he had written on the holy trinity. He was 
condemned and required to burn the book. Then he em 
broiled his associates by questioning the authority of their 
patron saint. This raised such a storm that he was expelled 
from the abbey. 

Betaking himself to Bourgogne he built a little hut in the 
wilderness about three miles from Nogent-sur-Seine, and be 
gan to lecture to the peasants of the neighborhood. The place 
became famous, and crowds gathered from every direction to 
hear him talk. His pupils built for him an oratory to which 
he gave the name of Paraclet the Comforter in recognition 
of its having served as a refuge when he was in distress. 

While at the height of his success at Paraclet, the abbot of 
a monastery in Bretagne died, and the monks elected him to 
the vacancy. The ecclesiastical authorities of France, wishing 
to get rid of him, forced him to accept and he reluctantly 
abandoned Paraclet. 

About this time the convent at Argenteuil where for nine 
years HeloTse had been sequestered was closed and the nuns 
driven out. This brought Abelard into the limelight once 



10 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

more. He persuaded Heloise, with some of the other evicted 
nuns, to go to Paraclet and establish a little convent there. 
Soon after, he succeeded in having her appointed abbess, and 
it was at Paraclet that she passed the rest of her days, scarcely 
ever seen in public, spending virtually all her time in prayer. 
At first her life in Paraclet involved much hardship, as she 
was wholly without means to keep the place going. Abelard 
visited it occasionally until the people of the neighborhood 
took up the burden of its support. Then he dropped out of 
sight and ceased even to communicate with Heloise. 

The fact is, Abelard's time was fully occupied in quarrels 
with the monks of his abbey in Bretagne. The grounds of his 
conflict with them are not entirely clear. He tells us that the 
occupants of his abbey were dissolute and were constantly 
in rebellion against him, at one time going so far as to put 
poison in his food. Finally existence among them became so 
unbearable that he gave up charge of the abbey and returned 
to Paris, where he again took up his profession as a lecturer. 

Meanwhile he was constantly engaged in writing on theo 
logical topics and getting into controversies with the authori 
ties of the Church. He wrote another book on the trinity for 
which he was summoned before a council of the Church held 
at Sens. The judges found his teaching heretical, and he ap 
pealed to Rome. On his way thither he stopped at the Bene 
dictine abbey at Cluny. There he was taken ill and could go 
no farther. In his absence the pope sustained the decree 
against him. He then went to Chalon-sur-Saone where he 
died, April 21, 1142, in his sixty-third year. 



HtiLOlSE 11 

His had been a tempestuous life, marked by continuous 
conflict, much of which was due to his disregard for the feel 
ings of those with whom he had to deal. But he was a forceful 
writer, and his teaching exerted a permanent influence upon 
the Christianity of his time. His chief book he called Yes and 
No. It was arranged in three columns. In the first column were 
one hundred and fifty-eight dogmas of the Church. Against 
each dogma were extracts from the writings of two Church 
fathers on that dogma, the views stated in the second and 
third columns being diametrically opposed. The purpose 
was, of course, to show that the fathers disagreed, and that 
we must rely for our interpretation of Church dogma not 
upon the fathers but upon our own intelligence. That was a 
bold assertion and amounted almost to heresy in the day 
when it was written. But to an ordinary layman it seems to 
be based on common sense, and to-day it is hardly conceiv 
able that anyone would declare him wrong. 

When Abelard was in the midst of his troubles in Bretagne, 
he had written a letter to a friend describing his calamities. 
That letter fell by chance into the hands of Heloise, and it 
caused a flood of memories to surge up in her brain. The 
evidence of her abandonment was too clear to be open to 
question. She knew that Abelard would never make an effort 
to see her again. She had become resigned to that. But there 
still lingered in her breast the faint hope that some day she 
would receive a letter telling her that she still had a place in 
his heart. This letter had never arrived, but in the one to his 
friend he had mentioned her in terms which, cold as they 



12 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

were, showed that he was not oblivious of the joys of long 
ago. She could not resist the opportunity to tell him she had 
read his words and that her feelings toward him had never 
changed. 

Looked at purely from an artistic point of view, the let 
ter with which she began this celebrated correspondence is a 
literary gem. It was inspired by a single purpose to fan 
into new life the embers of a romantic attachment that was 
virtually dead. No longer was there any thought of sensu 
ality in their love. She hoped only to kindle in Abelard a 
desire for spiritual communion which would mitigate her 
loneliness and give her courage to bear the misery of her 
blighted hopes. 

With this in view she begins by telling him what comfort > 
it has brought her to see again his familiar handwriting. , 
"I began the more ardently to read because the writer was 
so dear to me, gaining refreshment from his words as from 
a picture of one whose presence I have lost." 

She then offers him her sympathy, and denounces in even 
more bitter terms than he had used the despicable wretches 
who had made his life so hard. 

Then, to let him see that their situations are alike, she 
alludes to her own misery made doubly poignant by her 
grief for him. 

In writing to console his friend he has paid a debt of 
friendship, 'but how much greater a debt he owes to Paraclet 
of which he was the architect, and to its inmates who are 
his daughters. It is a tender plant, frail because of the weak- 



HtiLOlSE 13 

ness of female nature. He is tending another's vineyard and 
neglecting his own. "Ponder on what you owe to us. Instead 
of giving so much thought to the obstinate, consider what you 
owe to the obedient. Instead of bestowing so much on your 
enemies, meditate on what you owe to your daughters." 

And he owes a debt not only to Paraclet, but above all 
else to her who has given up everything for him. At his com 
mand she has been joined to him in holy wedlock, and at 
his command she has renounced all worldly pleasures and 
become a nun. "If I deserve naught from you, all my labor 
has been in vain. I can expect no reward from God, for I 
-have done nothing for Him. All I have done has been for 
> you. . . . Remember, therefore, what I have done, and pay 
J heed to what you owe to me." 

^ "And so in His name to whom you have dedicated your- 

j self, before God I beseech you, in whatsoever way you can, 

restore to me your presence, to wit, by writing me some word 

of comfort, that thus refreshed I may give myself with more 

alacrity to the service of God." 

Helo'ise could not have appealed to him in more effective 
*form. Her language was conciliatory and sympathetic. She 
based her argument on matters which were of interest to him. 
Her appeal was dignified and positive, though couched in 
terms of extreme humility. And she was careful to ask him 
for nothing which he could not readily grant. She did not 
demand his love, though her adoration breathes through the 
letter from the beginning to the end. 

It is hard to believe that Abelard could have read this let- 



14 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

ter without remorse. Though his love had long been dead, 
he knew full well that he had not given it a decent burial. 
However he might seek to justify the termination of his 
emotions, there still remained the duty to shield and com 
fort the woman whom he had made his wife and who had 
surrendered all she had in obedience to his command. This 
duty he had already made up his mind to shirk, and his 
reply to her appeal reveals a studied effort to ignore the sub 
ject that was closest to her heart. 

He undertook, however, to give a reason for abandoning 
the convent of which she was the head. With heartless insin 
cerity he tells her she is so endowed with divine grace that 
she is able without his aid to kindle religious enthusiasm in 
those who waver in the faith. This he knew was false. She 
had entered the convent through no love of God but merely 
to please him, and he was well aware she claimed no interest 
in religious things. And was he any more genuine when he 
suggested that she tell him on what subject she desired him 
to write? He knew she cared not a whit on what subject he 
wrote if only he showed a little sympathy and recognized 
the tie by which they had once been bound. 

With an egotism that is almost brutal he suggested that 
prayers be offered for his own well-being. Unwilling to give 
her even the satisfaction of feeling that he has made a per 
sonal appeal to her, he proposes that all the sisters in 
Paraclet unite their efforts in his behalf. 

And could anything be more cruel than his request that 
when he dies his body be buried at Paraclet? "The sight of 



H6LOISE 15 

my tomb," he says, "will lead our daughters and sisters in 
Jesus Christ more frequently to offer their prayers for me 
before the Lord/' 

Her answer to this cold epistle shows that he had cut her 
to the quick. Every word in his letter had merely added to 
her distress. How, she asks, could she be expected to pray 
if he were dead; all she could do would be to weep. "A 
heart torn by sorrow can not be calm. There is no place for 
God when one is overwhelmed with grief. ... If I lose you, 
that is the end of all. Why should I prolong a pilgrimage 
which I can endure only when sustained by you?" 

Her bitterest grief, if the truth were known, came from 
the realization that she was not permeated by the spirit of 
holiness demanded by her calling. She was leading an 
unnatural life, as were many other women of her time. It 
was the age of monasticism, when men of all classes were 
being driven to monasteries through sheer ennui. Though 
priests at that period were not forbidden to marry, most of 
them preferred to become monks simply because there was 
so little to interest them in domestic life. For many women, 
therefore, marriage was out of the question, and great num 
bers of them retired to convents because it was the only thing 
that they could do. Those who were not buoyed up by 
religious zeal found the constant observance of pious duties 
almost unbearable. Novices might perhaps get some relief in 
occasional lapses, but to an abbess like Heloise who was 
expected to be the pattern for all those under her care every 
lapse from the path of duty caused a laceration of the heart. 



16 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

The nuns were constantly exposed to the danger of being 
led into immorality. Under the system then in vogue each 
convent was under the authority of a monastery and the nuns 
owed obedience to the monks of the monastery by which they 
were controlled. Their convent was subject to constant visi 
tation-, and it was difficult to avoid temptation when monks 
clothed with authority visited a convent occupied by women 
who had taken the vow of chastity under stress of circum 
stances and with no predilection for holy living. In Abelard's 
letter to his friend he declares that the priests through their 
power over the nuns often led them into immoral practices, 
and in one of his letters to Helo'ise he points out the danger 
of allowing monks to communicate with the nuns except in 
the presence of others. 

Heloise suffered intense agony on that score. Her adora 
tion of Abelard kept her pure, but she was a woman of 
vehement emotions, and her long sojourn at Argenteuil, 
which was suppressed because of the immorality of the occu 
pants, had made her familiar with the danger to which she 
was exposed. She was in constant dread of the monks who 
visited her convent, and in one of her letters to Abelard she 
asks if she must allow them to sit at her table. "Oh! how easy 
a step to the destruction of the souls of men and women is 
their dwelling together in one place! But especially at table, 
where gluttony and drunkenness prevail and wine is drunk 
with enjoyment, wherein is luxury." 

The fact is that despite her earnest effort to adapt herself 
to the regimen of the cloister she had never been able to free 



HfiLOlSE 17 

her mind of carnal thoughts. By prayer and fasting she did 
all she could to wash away her sins, but in the deep silence 
of the cloister her mind kept wandering back to the voluptu 
ous pleasures of her youth. She knew the life which she was 
trying to lead was false. "They say that I am chaste and they 
do not realize that I am a hypocrite. Purity is not a matter 
of the body but of the soul. I am honored upon the earth, 
but I have no merit before God who searches the heart and 
sees clearly in the hidden places." 

She could not conceal from herself the truth that she was 
not really penitent. "Mortification of the body/' she writes, 
"is not penitence so long as the soul retains a love of sin. 
It is easy to confess one's faults and endure bodily penance. 
What is hard is to erase from one's soul the regret for hav 
ing lost unspeakable happiness. Even during the solemnity 
of divine worship at the moment when prayer should be 
most fervent and most pure sinful images arise so vividly 
before me that I cannot fix my thoughts on prayer. I weep 
not for the faults which I have committed, but for those 
which I commit no longer. And not only what we did but the 
hours and places, and all the circumstances relating to them, 
are victoriously engraven on my memory with your image. 
I live it all over again. I fall into a sort of delirium. The 
past has gained complete control of my imagination and 
leaves me in a state of agitation. Even in my sleep I can 
not rest. Sensations permeate my being which I have no 
power to suppress, and words escape my lips which betray 
the derangement of my heart." 



18 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

Whether or not she thought so, Heloise did not really 
suffer from a derangement of the heart. What impelled her 
to this frank confession was the necessity for emotional 
release. Shut up in a nunnery where the thoughts of her asso 
ciates were expected to be fixed on holy things, there was no 
one near her with whom she could freely talk. She needed an 
outlet and so she turned instinctively to the man who had 
once been her partner in the scenes which her imagination 
evoked. We are not required to take too literally the descrip 
tion of her sensations. In the monotony of the cloister she 
had long been feeding upon her memories of the past. They 
had become a sort of phantasm surging through her brain, 
and she was thus led to describe as a reality what was per 
haps little more than a dream. 

Sensuality was not the basis of her love for Abelard. It 
is true she said in one of her letters that she would rather 
be his mistress than his wife. To use her own language she 
"preferred love to matrimony, freedom to a bond." But the 
reason which she gives for this preference indicates that her 
thoughts were pure. A wife, she says, is looking for a reward, 
whereas she wished to give herself without asking for 
anything in return. Physical union had no meaning 
to her except as an expression of the communion of souls. 
During the nine years of her stay at Argenteuil no scandal 
ever smirched her name, and while she was abbess at Para- 
clet her life was always decorous. No image but that of 
Abelard ever touched her heart. It permeated every fiber of 
her being. She was bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. It 



HtiLOlSE 19 

was an unreasoning, unquenchable passion which even his 
indifference to her was powerless to efface. 

In reading these letters one is tempted to question whether 
Heloise would not have shown more worldly wisdom had 
she made some effort to curb the expression of her love. 
Much of the joy in wooing comes from the ardor of the chase, 
and the prize is valued often because it is difficult to win. 
But we must not forget that this correspondence began when 
the chase had reached its end. There was no longer any need 
for diplomacy. Her only purpose was to tell Abelard frankly 
what was in her heart, and she spoke with sincerity when 
she told him her whole being was wrapped up in him. 
Abelard had lauded her for her piety, and she replies: "God 
knows it is your command, not the voice from heaven, that 
has placed upon me the monastic yoke. Consider my despera 
tion, after all the suffering I have undergone on earth, when 
I realize that I can have no recompense on high. Until now 
my dissimulation has deceived you as it has others. You 
have attributed to religious enthusiasm what was only a 
sham. In commending yourself to my prayers, you demand 
the very thing I ask of you. 

"Do not, I implore you, place your trust in me, lest you 
fail to aid me by your prayers. I am not healed; so do not 
deprive me of the sweetness of the remedy. I am not enriched 
by grace; so do not delay in succoring my misery. I am 
not strong; so take care lest I fall before you have come to 
my relief. 

"Therefore, please, a truce to your praise. Do not incur 



20 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

the shameful reproach of flattery and falsehood with which 
we charge the poor. If you believe there is yet in me any 
vestige of virtue, take care that it be not blown away by the 
breath of vanity. A wise doctor sees the hidden malady 
though no symptoms betray it. 

"I am made too happy by your praise and my heart 
abandons itself too easily to your flattery. I am too much 
disposed to be intoxicated by the sweet poison, for my sole 
study is to please you in everything. Summon your fears, I 
beg of you, and lay aside your confidence, that your solici 
tude may ever be ready to help me. 

"Do not exhort me to virtue. Do not incite me to combat 
by telling me virtue reaches its height in weakness, and that 
the crown will be given only to the one who combats to the 
end. I seek no crown of victory. All I want is to avoid danger. 
It is wiser to shun peril than to engage in war. If God will 
give me but the smallest corner in heaven, I shall be satis 
fied." 

The response which Abelard made to this affecting letter 
brought some comfort to her troubled heart. While it made 
clear to her that she could never hope again to kindle his 
affection, it contained a genuine admission of the wrong that 
he had done. It attempted to prove to her that the physical 
affliction which had been visited upon him was a just punish 
ment from God, and was a blessing in that it had deprived 
him of further opportunity to sin. He exhorts her to forget 
that she has been his wife and henceforth to think of herself 
only as the bride of Christ. 



HtiLOlSE 21 

If we may judge by her next letter (the last we have from 
her) his admonition calmed her excited nerves, and what 
ever her emotions may have been she did not thereafter give 
them utterance. 

To speak the truth, this last letter from her is so different 
in style and substance from her earlier letters that one is 
almost tempted to suspect it was not hers. While purporting 
to ask Abelard to enlighten her on the origin of the institution 
of nunnery and to prescribe rules for guidance of the sisters 
in their work, it is itself a treatise on the very subjects on 
which it craves enlightenment. It seems almost as if it were 
written by Abelard as a preface to the last two letters from 
him which close the correspondence. At any rate it furnishes 
no clue to the outcome of her love. We do not know whether 
she finally became reconciled to her fate. From other sources 
we learn that she was still an inmate of the convent when 
Abelard died. His remains were transferred to Paraclet in 
compliance with his request, and upon her death twenty-one 
years later their bodies were united in a single tomb. 



ISAEEAU tfe BIFIERg 



THE three hundred years between the death of Heloise and 
the birth of Isabeau entirely changed the face of France. 
Though little change was effected in the lives of peasants, 
more and more of them abandoned agriculture and clustered 
together in the towns. In the days of Isabeau important cities 
were to be found all over France. Municipal government, 
with all its financial and social ramifications, had become the 
chief problem on which men exercised their minds. Paris had 
become the seat of government and was now embellished with 

handsome edifices, ecclesiastical and secular. Royal expendi- 

23 



24 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

ture had increased so fast that taxes were a serious burden, 
resulting in constant insurrection, especially among the peas 
ants, who had no share in the luxurious life of the capital and 
no interest in the armies kept on foot to protect the personal 
prerogatives of the king. In no period of French history was 
there so little loyalty to the crown. With almost complete in 
difference the people saw the king of England take possession 
of the northern part of France. Isabeau sat on the throne 
unmoved while her husband's land was being dismembered 
and, though then no longer queen, she lived to see France 
restored to power through the miraculous courage and en 
thusiasm of Jeanne d'Arc. 



i 



SABEAU DE BAVIfeRE will never be reckoned among 
the heroines of France. She has always been called a traitor 
to the country of which her husband Charles VI was king. The 
charge against her is that she Assented to the treaty by which 



ISABEAU de BAVI&RE 25 

the king of England was declared the lawful inheritor of the 
throne of France. That treaty was signed at Troyes on the 
bank of the Seine in 1420. Because of changed conditions 
it was not carried out, but Isabeau has never been pardoned 
for assenting to its terms. 

The treaty which caused her to be hated bore no signature 
but that of Charles, and we look in vain for any evidence 
that Isabeau attempted to coerce or influence the king. Still, 
the purport of the transaction was to hand the government 
over to a foreign power, and Isabeau has had to bear the 
brunt of calumny simply for the reason that she was not a 
child of France. 

Nothing but reasons of expediency led Charles to seek 
a wife outside his realm. France, at the time of his marriage, 
was in the throes of civil war. Five years earlier, at the age 
of fourteen, he had succeeded to the throne, but the crown 
was scarce upon his head when his uncles began to quarrel, 
each resolved to hold the reins. After some bickering it had 
been determined that the government should be administered 
by a council of twelve, among whom should be the four 
uncles of the king. Of these four men the one with greatest 
influence was the due de Bourgogne. He was a man of cease 
less energy and of determined will; and he was the only 
member of the royal family who knew how to govern men. 
He gradually came, therefore, to take the leading part in 
governing the country, and it was to him more than to any 
other that the young king grew into the habit of turning for 
advice. 



26 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

By inheritance of his wife the due de Bourgogne had 
become possessor of the fertile lands of Flanders, which 
made it necessary for him to be on terms of amity with the 
powers of central Europe. His son and daughter had already 
allied themselves by marriage with the rulers of Bavaria, 
and he wished to strengthen his position further by nego 
tiating a similar alliance for his protege the king of France. 

It was not altogether easy to bring the thing about. Rich 
as France was, her affairs were so disorganized that the 
German princes were not particularly eager to let their 
daughters go. One of them refused point-blank, and it was 
only by the persistence of the duchesse de Bourgogne that 
her husband at last succeeded in carrying the matter through. 

In Froissart's Chronicle we are told how Isabeau, the 
daughter of fitienne, duke of Bavaria, was brought to Amiens 
and offered to the king. It was apparently a case of love at 
first sight. "When the damsel was ready, the three duchesses 
led her to the king, and then she kneeled down; but the king 
took her by the hands and beheld her well, by which regard 
love entered into his heart." The next day the ladies con 
veyed Isabeau "in a chair richly covered, with a crown on 
her head worth the riches of a realm, which the king had 
sent to her beforehand; and the bishop of the same place 
did wed them in the presence of all the lords and ladies." 

Isabeau was only fourteen when she became a queen. 
At her father's simple court she had found no opportunity 
to become familiar with politics or to study the forces that 
lie behind men's acts; and she came to the throne having 



ISABEAU de BAVI8RE 27 

no acquaintance with courtiers or with the difficulties and 
dangers that beset a monarch's life. Her character was yet 
unformed and was bound to take its shape from such inci 
dents as might lie across her path. 

The stage on which she had to play her part was not, con 
ducive to edifying thoughts. All around her were evidences 
of brutality and corruption. The men and women who hov 
ered about her husband's court were nearly all seeking to 
gratify their personal ambitions, and some of them were 
ready to go as far as murder to effect their ends. Even the 
king's family were at one another's throats. No one seemed 
to know definitely who was in control. There was inexactness 
in every detail of administration. Isabeau was expected to 
conduct her domestic establishment with regal splendor, and 
yet at times there was not enough revenue to satisfy her 
simplest wants. No regular system of taxation had been estab 
lished, and in various parts of the country people would not 
pay at all. Paris and several of the larger cities were in a 
state of anarchy. Shops were constantly broken into by 
marauders, so that the shopkeepers scarcely dared to keep 
a stock of goods on hand. The country was overrun with 
soldiers belonging to one faction or another who seized 
whatever they wanted without even a pretense of paying, and 
they frequently tore down the peasants' houses to get material 
for their fires. It seemed as if everyone was animated by 
selfish purposes and the only arbiter was the sword. 

Charles was not much of a comforter during the early 
years of Isabeau's married life. At this stage of his career 



28 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

he had a mania for warfare and only at rare intervals was 
he found at home. Under encouragement from the due de 
Bourgogne he spent most of his time in Flanders trying to 
keep the people in subjection. He also made elaborate prepa 
rations for invading England, but for one reason or another 
the expedition never sailed. 

All this time Isabeau had been wearing out her youth in 
keeping up appearances in Paris, at the same time giving 
birth to children for the king. She resided in Saint-Paul, a 
palace which the king's father had erected in Paris on the 
bank of the Seine. Undoubtedly there were moments when 
she found happiness in the adulation which she received as 
queen, but her husband's continued absence dimmed her 
glory, and her physical condition stood in the way of much 
that she had hoped to do. She was still too young to direct the 
court alone, and the animosities always breaking out among 
her husband's relatives were a constant strain upon her 
nerves. 

Four years after her marriage a ray of light was thrown 
on her troubled existence by the festivity of her coronation. 
She was only eighteen on that glorious day in June when 
she made her formal entry into Paris. All the great ladies 
of the realm were gathered at Saint-Denis to take her hand, 
and twelve hundred burgesses on horseback were drawn up 
on both sides of the road over which the procession was to 
pass. At its head were the king's mother and sister in a closed 
litter. Then in an open litter came Isabeau. By her side on 



ISABEAU de BAVI&RE 29 

horseback was the wife of her husband's brother accom 
panied by the uncles of the king. Next came all the royal 
duchesses, and these were followed by throngs of titled 
ladies, some in carriages and others on their steeds. 

At the gate of Saint-Denis where the procession entered 
Paris a spectacle had been prepared to represent a scene in 
heaven with children dressed as angels chanting hymns. 
Other scenes were depicted all along the route, and at one 
place stretched from roof to roof was a rope on which a 
tight-rope walker performed his antics as the queen rode by. 
All the houses were aflame with bunting and "there was such 
people in the streets it seemed as all the world was there." 

On reaching Notre-Dame the four dukes assisted the queen 
and other ladies to alight. The queen entered the church and 
knelt at the altar. Then the four dukes approached and laid a 
costly crown upon her head. 

From Notre-Dame she proceeded to the Louvre and made 
her obeisance to the king. 

The next day she was anointed by the archbishop in 
Sainte-Chapelle, and this was followed by a bountiful repast 
in the palace at which more than five hundred ladies sat 
down. After that the queen departed in the company of the 
duchesses and went to the palace of Saint-Paul where the 
king joined her later in the day. 

A still more pleasing ceremony awaited her on the mor 
row. Scarcely was she awake when forty burgesses of Paris 
came to her palace bringing a litter filled with jewels. Soon 



30 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

after, two more litters arrived with more presents for the 
king, the queen, and her sister-in-law. These presents cost 
altogether more than three thousand crowns in gold. 

For a short time now it looked as if there was much hap 
piness in store for Isabeau. Her husband apparently was sur 
feited with war. He returned to Paris and took a more active 
part in the government of his realm. The result was that the 
due de Bourgogne lost much of his prestige, his counsel was 
often brushed aside, and in several important matters the 
king proceeded in direct opposition to his advice. Charles 
was no longer the pliant youth that he had been before his 
marriage. He became self-willed and would brook no inter 
ference with his plans. Those who were closest began to 
detect in him an almost insane desire to have his way. The 
slightest differences of opinion threw him into a rage, and 
he gradually became obsessed with the idea that those about 
him had designs upon his life. 

When only twenty-four he became embittered by some 
trivial act committed by the due de Bretagne and resolved 
to march against him with his troops. The members of his 
council implored him to be calm, but he was determined on 
revenge; and all his uncles and his brother were forced to 
accompany him with their men. As he neared the town of 
le Mans he was stricken with fever, and was again urged to 
abandon the expedition. After a few days he was better and 
renewed the order to proceed. It was a scorching day in sum 
mer and he began to feel exhausted. Suddenly, hearing 
behind him a spear clashing against one of his men's armor, 



ISABEAU de BAVIfiRE 31 

he imagined that someone was about to attack him. Wheel 
ing round, he dashed into the midst of his followers, slashing 
right and left with his sword. Finally he was pinioned and it 
was found that he had lost his mind. He was unable to recog 
nize anyone. He had to be brought back to Creil in the care 
of his physicians. 

The king being now incapacitated, the due de Bourgogne 
again assumed control. His wife had become the confidante 
of Isabeau, and it was said that nobody could speak to the 
queen except through her. 

By careful nursing, the king's mind gradually cleared, 
and he expressed a wish to see the queen. She had not been 
told of his illness because she was about to be confined, but 
as soon as the word was brought to her she hurried to his 
bedside and her presence seemed to do him good. After 
some months he had apparently become cured and he 
returned to Paris. The physicians told her she must provide 
him with constant diversion, and, though she was about to 
give birth to her sixth child, she did not spare herself in 
furnishing all sorts of social entertainment at Saint-Paul. 
Among these entertainments was a costume ball for one of 
the ladies-in-waiting who was about to be married. The king 
and five of his guests were made up with long shaggy hair 
to represent savages. In the course of the festivities the hair 
caught fire and two of the men were burned to death. The 
king himself was badly scorched. The queen fainted and had 
to be carried to her room. 

The next year the king had another attack which lasted 



32 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

eight months, and from this time till the end of his life, 
nearly thirty years later, he was subject to fits of insanity 
which worked havoc with Isabeau's domestic life. In his 
intervals of sanity he attempted to administer affairs, but so 
long as he lived Isabeau was kept in a constant state of 
anxiety and fear. And the most distressing feature was that 
when his malady came on he was seized with a dreadful 
horror of his wife. He imagined she was dogging his steps 
and trying to cause him bodily harm. 

A new source of trouble now hovered over the distracted 
realm. The incapacity of the king had brought into prom 
inence his only brother Louis who was six years younger 
than the king. In case of the king's death without male heirs 
he would have succeeded to the throne, and he resented the 
domination of his uncle. At the time of his brother's first 
attack he was only twenty, but during the successive maladies 
of his brother he became the most formidable rival of the 
duke. He was an exceedingly fascinating youth, strong and 
athletic, a fluent talker, and with all this he had a taste for 
literature and art. Unfortunately he was a lavish spender 
and somewhat dissipated. Between him and the king there 
was always a bond of deep affection. On one occasion, before 
Charles lost his mind, they were together in the south of 
France and the king made a wager of five thousand francs 
that he could beat Louis riding on horseback to Paris. Louis 
won, making the journey in four and a quarter days. Shortly 
after that Charles conferred on him the title of duc'd' Orleans 



ISABEAU de BAVI&RE 33 

instead of due de Touraine, the tide which he had hitherto 
borne. This may have acted as a spur to his ambition. At any 
rate he and the due de Bourgogne were always quarrelling, 
and it was only through the efforts of Isabeau that they were 
prevented from drawing swords. 

In 1403 the due de Bourgogne was forced by failing health 
to yield control, and with the acquiescence of the king the 
sovereign power was conferred on Isabeau, In the following 
year, on the death of the due de Bourgogne, his son endeav 
ored to gain ascendancy at court, and actual war broke out 
between the houses of B >urgogne and Orleans. Isabeau, 
though eager to appease both parties, favored the house of 
Orleans. 

It has always been charged against Isabeau that her alli 
ance with Louis was due to infatuation rather than a desire 
to promote the interests of France. Even while the reins were 
held by the due de Bourgogne there had been rumors of im 
proper relations between Louis and the queen; and in 1403, 
when her eleventh child, Charles VII, was born, people had 
questioned whether he was really the offspring of the king. 
How the rumor started is not entirely clear. There is no evi 
dence that the king's suspicions ever were aroused. She ap 
pears to have been genuinely devoted to the king and in his 
lucid moments so was he to her. It seems probable that Louis' 
wife was the author of the charge. Her husband's gallantries 
were on all men's lips and were a constant source of irritation 
to his spouse. In discussing their private matters Isabeau 



34 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

always took the side of Louis and finally excluded his duchess 
from the court, but the records do not indicate the grounds 
which actuated Isabeau in taking so radical a step. 

It was matter of common gossip that Louis was often 
seen in the company of the queen, but that is hardly enough 
to justify complaint. In the absence of the king his brother 
naturally took his place at court and participated in many 
of the entertainments given by the queen. That they were 
kindred spirits there can be no doubt. Both of them loved 
society and were eager for display. His vivacity and en 
thusiasm were always comforting, and she generally turned 
to him when her husband's malady was at its worst. He was 
with her on November 23, 1407, when she gave birth to her 
twelfth child, and on the same day when he was returning 
to his home he was assassinated by an emissary of the due 
de Bourgogne. 

Isabeau, it is true, was no longer the ingenuous young 
woman who had kneeled at her husband's feet at Amiens. 
She had seen much of the disorders of a dissolute court. Ac 
cording to Froissart, the king's malady was the result of 
riotous living, and it has been hinted that Isabeau participated 
freely in the revelry that prevailed about her. But if she 
were guilty of infidelity to her husband it is hard to under 
stand why she and Charles did not become estranged. Except 
when he was under restraint his wife was always at his side, 
and in every situation where a difference of opinion was pos 
sible she was a stanch supporter of his views. 

The assassination of Louis brought terror into the heart of 



ISABEAU de BAVItiRE 35 

Isabeau. Her intimacy with him had been so close that she 
thought it more than likely the next blow would fall on her. 
Seized with panic she shut herself up in Saint-Paul and a few 
days later fled with all her children to Melun. The king was 
then in the midst of a prolonged period of insanity so that it 
was useless to look to him for help. 

The house of Bourgogne was now in full control, and the 
people of Paris were generally on its side. The Orleans fac 
tion had approached the king of England and promised him 
the duchy of Normandie if he would help their cause. When 
this treacherous proceeding became known the people were 
frantic with indignation, and the due de Bourgogne used it 
to mollify the king. He admitted that he was responsible for 
the murder and declared that Louis had been treating with 
foreign powers in order to get rid of Charles. The poor old 
king was so muddled that he did not know what to do. Finally 
he pardoned the due de Bourgogne and the royal family 
returned to Paris. This, however, afforded Isabeau no relief. 
The capital was in such a state of turmoil that no one's life 
was safe. As a temporary refuge the king took up his abode 
in Tours. When he came back a mob stormed the palace of 
Saint-Paul and in the presence of the cpieen seized a number 
of her ladies-in-waiting and threw them into prison. The due 
de Bourgogne tried to appease them, but without avail. Find 
ing he was helpless he abandoned the government and left 
Isabeau and her husband at the mercy of the mob. The 
Orleanist faction then entered the city and assumed control. 

Meantime another storm was brewing on the horizon. For 



36 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

nearly a hundred years the people of England had gazed with 
covetous eyes on France. In 1346 Edward III had crossed 
the channel and defeated the French at Crecy. In the follow 
ing year he had taken possession of Calais and the English 
had held that city ever since. No further penetration had 
been possible, but the people of England had never wearied 
in asserting that Edward through his mother was the grand 
son of the French king and therefore the throne of France 
was theirs. In 1413 Henry V, who was the great-grandson of 
Edward III, became king of England, and he determined to 
assert his claim. 

Conditions in France were such as to give him every rea 
son to expect that he would win. The 'nation was divided into 
two camps, each of which in turn had sought his predecessor's 
aid. Though neither was wholly ready to admit his claim, he 
knew their animosity for each other would prevent them from 
uniting their forces to resist. In 1414 he made a formal de 
mand on Charles, and, to soften the asperity of his demand, 
he offered to marry the French king's daughter Catherine. To 
this plan Charles, then king in little more than name, gave 
his assent; but it became soon manifest that he had no power 
to install the English king. So Henry determined to seize the 
throne by force. With thirty thousand men he landed in the 
neighborhood of le Havre. His plan of campaign was to 
march first to Calais and subjugate the country as he went 
along. Meantime the council of Charles endeavored to raise 
an army to resist and appealed to the adherents both of 
Bourgogne and of Orleans to join in the defense. The due 



ISABEAU de BAVItiRE 37 

de Bourgogne replied that he would come, but his armies 
never took the field. Then came the hattle of Agincourt where 
the French were beaten though they outnumbered the English 
three or four to one. 

The new due d'Orleans having been taken prisoner by the 
English, his father-in-law took control of things in Paris and 
banished the queen to Tours, where she was kept under guard 
and not even permitted to communicate with her husband. 
The poor mad king was treated as a nonentity and was virtu 
ally a prisoner in the hands of the Orleanists. All of his sons 
were dead but Charles, a boy of twelve. The due de Bour 
gogne, finding it impossible to gain a foothold in Paris, turned 
to Henry and formed a pact by which he agreed, so long as 
Henry's campaign lasted, to continue his warfare against the 
Orleanists whom he called "the enemies of France." The 
Orleans faction now came out boldly for the dauphin while 
the due de Bourgogne held himself before the people as the 
champion of the queen. In 1417 he went to Tours and per 
suaded Isabeau to go with him to Troyes where he had estab 
lished his headquarters. As Charles had appointed Isabeau 
to act as regent, the due de Bourgogne was now in position 
to declare that he was seeking to restore the throne of France. 
While the unselfishness of his purpose may well be ques 
tioned, it is certain that as things then stood his position was 
more tenable than that of his opponents. The dauphin had no 
rights so long as Charles still lived, and the people were not 
yet ready to depose the king. The Orleanists had done nothing 
to restore order in the capital. Business was at a standstill, 



38 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

and the people were on the verge of starvation. It was mani 
fest that the Orleanists could not establish a stable govern 
ment or furnish protection to human life. The people were 
growing every day more discontented and soon they rose 
in rebellion against the party in control. Right and left the 
Orleanists were massacred. Those who survived fled from 
the capital, taking the dauphin with them. The queen and the 
due de Bourgogne sent emissaries to Paris in an effort to 
restore order, and finally, in the summer of 1418, they came 
themselves. This time they were received with enthusiasm by 
the people. In the name of the queen a new government was 
organized and the insurrection in Paris was brought to a 
close. 

While these events were occurring in Paris, Henry was ex 
tending his sway in Normandie. One after another of the 
cities in that populous region had fallen into his hands. No 
where had he met with organized resistance. Here and there 
a haughty nobleman had refused to yield, but nearly every 
body had accepted what seemed inevitable and a considerable 
number had gone so far as to join the army of the invader. 
Rouen, scarcely inferior in size to Paris, still held out, and 
Henry realized that because of its fortifications it would be 
exceedingly difficult to take it by storm. He decided, there 
fore, to surround the city with his troops, and wait till famine 
forced the inhabitants to capitulate. Six months later, in Jan 
uary, 1419, Rouen surrendered. 

With the fall of Rouen the Orleanists virtually withdrew 
from the north of France. The dauphin, then sixteen, retired 



ISABEAU de BAVIBRE 39 

to Tours and left to the due de Bourgogne the task of combat 
ing the invader. This was a task which it would have been 
futile for him to undertake. Henry had shown himself the 
most capable general of his time. Normandie, already within 
his grasp, was fast becoming reconciled to his humane admin 
istration and was furnishing generous supplies of ammuni 
tion and of men. To attack him single-handed would have 
been the height of folly, so the due de Bourgogne opened 
negotiations in the hope of bringing about a truce. A con 
ference was arranged to be held between the two kings, and 
Isabeau was to be present with her daughter Catherine, as 
well as the due de Bourgogne and the due de Bretagne. When 
the day for the conference arrived, all were present except 
Charles, who was too ill to come. Henry was offered Nor- 
mandie if he would renounce his claim upon the rest of 
France. This he indignantly refused, and the conference 
broke up. 

At this moment ambassadors arrived from the dauphin to 
urge a reconciliation between him and the due de Bourgogne. 
In the absence of the dauphin it was difficult to arrange de 
tails. So it was agreed that he and the due de Bourgogne 
should meet a month later and discuss the matter face to face. 
In th,e interval Charles was taken to Bourgogne's head 
quarters and Henry continued his advance toward Paris. 

The meeting between the dauphin and Bourgogne bore all 
the semblance of a duel, only a few friends of the principals 
being present. The dauphin began by upbraiding Bourgogne 
for failure to keep his engagements. Bourgogne denied the 



40 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

charge. In a few minutes both parties had their hands upon 
their swords. The dauphin's friends finally prevailed upon 
him to withdraw and, while the conference was breaking up, 
someone ran a sword through Bourgogne and he died upon 
the spot. In the confusion no one was able to say who com 
mitted the murder. The dauphin denied having a part in it, 
and attempted to renew negotiations ; but he found the people 
of Bourgogne in no mood for further parley. The murder 
had aroused such passions that there was no longer hope of 
presenting a united front against the invader. The people of 
Paris were at fever heat and were clamoring for an alliance 
with Henry who was already at their gates. 

At this juncture the new due de Bourgogne was hardly 
free to choose. Public sentiment had undergone a change. In 
the capital and in all the north of France the people had 
grown so wearied with civil warfare that they were eager to 
welcome anyone who could bring order out of chaos, and at 
the moment no one was in position to restore order but the 
English king. Even the people of Bourgogne were for him 
because they believed he would avenge their murdered duke. 
Ambassadors were sent to Rouen, therefore, to discuss the 
situation, and finally it was agreed that Henry should come 
to Troyes and make a treaty with poor old Charles. 

On the twenty-first of May, 1420, the treaty was signed at 
Troyes. Looking at it with unprejudiced eyes, it was not alto 
gether humiliating to loyal citizens of France. Henry was 
not received as king, he was merely declared to be the law 
ful heir upon the death of Charles. He was to marry the 



ISABEAU de BAVI8RE 41 

French king's daughter, and her children were to inherit the 
crown upon their father's death. Thus both Henry's title and 
that of his offspring were to be traced through females accord 
ing to the English law and contrary to the principle hitherto 
upheld in France, But that the principle was not particularly 
sacred is manifest when we recall that later Henry IV in 
herited through the female branch. 

The treaty provided also that as soon as Henry became 
king Normandie should be restored to the crown of France, 
and Henry should not style himself king of France, as he 
had hitherto done, until the death of Charles. 

To make the treaty more palatable in France there were 
inserted in it words by which Charles declared, "Since Henry 
has become my son and the son of our dear beloved queen, 
we shall honor him and be to him as father and mother." 
Charles was to hold the crown and all the royal revenues so 
long as he should live, but the king of England was to govern, 
acting in concert with the due de Bourgogne. 

In this treaty, signed by Charles, the dauphin was pro 
nounced guilty of horrible crimes, on account of which his 
father declared no peace should ever be made with him. He 
had in mind undoubtedly the murder of the due de Bour 
gogne,, though the king's ire was kindled also by the looting 
of Saint-Paul while Isabeau was in banishment at Tours, an 
outrage in which the dauphin seems to have taken part. 

Isabeau's share in these negotiations seems to have been 
confined to seeing that her daughter became Henry's wife. 
On the face of the treaty it was entirely the work of Charles. 



42 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

It was not even signed by Henry, a singular omission which 
is an indication of the desperate condition of France. Henry 
was in a position where he could command and did not feel 
the necessity of giving anything in return. 

Three months later Henry married Catherine, and the two 
kings with their queens and the due de Bourgogne and the 
duke of Bavaria went to Melun which Henry was holding 
under siege. After that, Charles and Isabeau retired to Saint- 
Paul and their public life was at an end. Two years later the 
great Henry died, leaving a son by Catherine, and in less than 
three months after the death of Henry poor old Charles died, 
too. Isabeau sank into oblivion, living in penury at Saint- 
Paul. Then Jeanne d'Arc, inspired by God, appeared upon 
the scene, and finally all vestiges of the treaty of Troyes were 
swept away. 

One thing may certainly be said in praise of Isabeau. In 
spite of all the distress brought on her by her husband's 
malady, she remained with her husband to the close, and 
they stood together in opposing what they regarded as the 
machinations of their son. As things turned out the penalty 
fell on her. For thirteen years after her husband's death she 
lingered on, ignored by the ruling power, and died in her 
palace of Saint-Paul, which had been the center of the nation's 
festivities while Charles VI was king. 

It was a sad life, this life of Isabeau's. Tied to a mad hus 
band to whom she bore twelve children, deserted by her only 
surviving son, clothed with the garb of royalty and bearing 
the title of regent, but harassed by lack of means to support 



ISABEAU de BAVltRE 43 

the prerogatives of a queen, tossed about by warring factions, 
threatened by mobs and murderers, held up to execration for 
acts which she performed at the dictation of others, she 
dragged out a miserable existence long after all her influence 
was gone. Finally she was reduced to poverty; and, though 
mother of the king of France and grandmother of the king 
of England, her existence was virtually forgotten and she 
went to her grave unhonored and unloved. 



MADAMS in BEFPAND 



THBEE more centuries have slipped away, and we have 
passed the period of France's greatest power. Le grand siecle 
is over. Louis XIV has just heen laid away and France has not 
yet come to realize that its era of world supremacy has reached 
its end. People were still dazzled by the effulgence of the 
roi soleil. It was the spendthrift age, when society was being 
supported by the rapidly-diminishing revenues of the state. 
With mounting deficits wise men foresaw the inevitable crash, 
but it was the fashion to avert one's eyes. "Eat, drink, and be 

merry" was the motto of the day. Down in the lower strata 

45 



46 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

of society there was going on a rumbling discussion of the 
people's rights, but those in power gave no heed; they knew 
that something radical must happen, but hoped it would be 
deferred till their own eyes were closed. Madame du Deffand 
was typical of her times. It was one of her fundamental 
principles to give no thought to the morrow, but to make each 
day provide her with such comfort as it could. Happily for 
her the crash did not come until she was in her grave. 



o 



\ of the ways in which the leaders of French society 
in the eighteenth century sought to banish ennui was to com 
pose pen-pictures of one another in which they sometimes 
ventured, under the license which portrait painters claim, 
to depict more bluntly than would be tolerated in ordinary 
conversation the foibles and idiosyncrasies of the person to 
whom the pen-portrait was addressed. When she was seventy- 




MADAME DU DEFFAND 



MADAME du DEFFAND 47 

seven the marquise du Deffand painted this portrait of her 
self: "People give madame du Deffand credit for more in 
telligence than she has. They praise her and they fear her, in 
both cases without justice. Of intellect and of beauty she has 
only what came to her by inheritance nothing unusual and 
nothing distinguished. Of education she has none. All the 
wisdom she has was gained by experience. It came late, and 
only after many bitter experiences." 

This picture, though it describes with accuracy what 
madame du Deffand considered the salient features of her 
character, makes no mention of those traits which shaped her 
whole career and caused her to stand out as one of the most 
interesting figures in the social life of Paris during the fifty 
years that preceded the Revolution. As she intimates, she 
was not an intellectual leader, and she was not a famous 
beauty; but her sound judgment, the brilliancy of her con 
versation, the warmth of her emotions, and her amazing 
vitality drew into her salon all the most fashionable men and 
women of Paris, and enabled her to gain the reputation of 
being the most celebrated hostess of her time. 

When she said that people feared as well as praised her, 
she was alluding to a trait which more than any other has 
been caught up by hostile critics, and has led to a wholly 
erroneous judgment of her character. There is no question 
that she had a caustic tongue. She herself admits that she 
often spoke impetuously. But the virtue on which she prided 
herself above all else was her sincerity, and it is simply be 
cause she was sincere and described the motives of those 



48 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

about her without fear or favor that her letters reveal with 
surprising veracity the characteristics of the artificial society 
in which she lived. 

One of the strange things about madame du Deffand is 
that the first fifty years of her life are virtually a blank. She 
seldom refers to her early days, and there seems to have been 
a tacit understanding among her friends that there was to be 
no mention of her past. She tells us more than once that she 
has suffered much, but as to the cause of her unhappiness 
her lips were always sealed. 

In the absence of evidence, it may be permissible to sur 
mise. When she came to Paris from her home in Bourgogne 
she found society completely given over to pleasure. It was 
the period of the Regency the most dissolute period in all 
French history. Men and women, too had no thought of 
anything but revelry. Feasting and card playing, and riotous 
orgies that lasted all night long, were the main pursuits of 
everyone in high position. Marital fidelity, one might almost 
say, did not exist. All administrative functions were con 
ducted by titled persons who held their office through inheri 
tance or as a transmissible right acquired through personal 
favor of the king. Deffand through the influence of potent 
relatives was launched upon this sea of corruption at the age 
of eighteen. Possessing no ancestral wealth, her only way to 
prevent being submerged was to swim along with the tide and 
fascinate those in power by the gifts of personal charm and 
intellectual vivacity with which she was richly endowed. 
There are on record descriptions of a few riotous entertain- 



MADAME du DEFFAND 49 

ments in which we find her name. We know also that she was 
an intimate friend of one of the most notorious beauties that 
enjoyed the privileges of the court, and one of her wannest 
admirers in her later years declared in an unguarded 
moment that she had been for a short time the regent's 
favorite. Apart from these scanty references about her early 
years we are left wholly in the dark, but it is doubtless the 
incidents of this period that she had in mind when she 
declared it was through bitter experience that she acquired 
the wisdom that guided her later life. 

When twenty-two she married the marquis du DefFand, 
a colonel of dragoons, but apparently he was her husband 
in little more than name. Soon after her marriage she was 
granted by the regent an annual pension of six thousand 
francs. This was too much for the irate husband to endure, and 
he left her a catastrophe which seems to have caused her 
little pain. The truth is, she had other admirers to console her 
for her loss. After a decent pause the marquis returned to 
her household, but only for a brief period, and thereafter 
the rupture was complete. Her life after she parted from her 
husband was that of most of the women of her time, no bet 
ter and no worse. That she was a social favorite goes with 
out saying, but everything indicates that her thoughts were 
bent on getting ahead in the world rather than merely chas 
ing after elusive pleasures. 

At about this stage in her career madame du Deffand 
established an intimacy with one of the most illustrious 
dames of France. At Sceaux, about seven miles to the south 



50 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

of Paris, lived the celebrated duchesse de Maine whose 
grandfather was the great Conde and whose husband was 
the legitimized son of Louis XIV and madame de Montespan. 
Her chateau was maintained on a scale of almost regal 
splendor, and, though her intellectual gifts were somewhat 
below the average, her greatest ambition was to make her 
home the gathering-place of all the brilliant men and women 
of her day. Among those whose companionship she most 
eagerly sought was the gay young Deffand who had dazzled 
the regent's court with her sallies of wit and humor. Deffand 
was bored by the inanity of her hostess but dared not refuse 
the great lady's invitations, and for many years was a con 
stant visitor, sometimes staying for months at a time under 
the shadow of the dismal duchesse who once remarked that 
she never was able to rid herself of the things she didn't 
care for. 

Looked at in a worldly aspect Deffand's sojourns at Sceaux 
marked an important epoch in her life. It was here that she 
first met Voltaire, with whom she began a spirited corre 
spondence that extended over a period of fifty years, and at 
Sceaux she became acquainted with Renault who provided 
the means that enabled her to establish her Paris salon. 

She could not have found a better protector. When her 
liaison with him began, Renault held the honorable post of 
president of the first chambre d'enquetes. He was then forty- 
five, twelve years her senior, and he had become somewhat 
satiated with the gallantries of his youth. No man in Paris 
had more friends and his urbanity drew all the most desir- 



MADAME du DEFFAND 51 

able persons to his home. He prided himself on his literary 
attainments which were sufficient to procure for him a seat in 
the Academie, though it must be admitted that those most 
capable of judging did not rank his literary productions 
quite so high as he would have wished. It was Deffand's 
quick mentality rather than her feminine graces that aroused 
his interest, and during their forty years of quasi-matri 
monial relations he rarely exerted himself to make a con 
quest of her heart. On both sides it was admitted to be a 
liaison of convenience. He told her frankly that she was a 
necessary evil, and she on her side took pains not to be 
exacting. "You have the key of the fields," she wrote him, 
"and you need have no fear that I shall ever ask you to give 
it back to me." After they had known each other some years 
he was given the much coveted position of superintendent of 
the queen's household. This post kept him much of the time 
away from Paris, but made no serious change in their friend 
ship. She wrote to him at one time, "Your letters are my 
daily bread," and when he came to Paris he was nearly 
always to be found in the salon which she had established 
in what had formerly been the convent of Saint- Joseph. Her 
apartment had formerly been the home of madame de 
Montespan. 

In 1752 a dreadful calamity overtook her she was be 
coming blind. To one whose life had been so buoyant it was 
a terrific blow. Her first thought was that she must escape 
from the world. With that thought uppermost in her mind, 
she gave up her home in Paris and returned to Bourgogne. 



52 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

There she met a young lady by the name of Julie de 
Lespinasse who was the illegitimate sister of her brother's 
second wife. The poor girl's putative father lived in Lyon, 
and when she was four she was taken charge of by her sister; 
and as she grew up was employed as governess of her sister's 
children. Her illegitimate birth was fairly well known in the 
neighborhood., a fact which made her position most humili 
ating; and her sister did nothing to make it less so. She was 
in bitter grief when Deffand became acquainted with her 
and was seriously thinking of going into a nunnery. Deffand 
took a fancy to her and wanted to help, but she knew her 
brother would be indignant if she took her away, as he 
feared that if the girl got out of his power the story of her 
birth would become more widely known and reflect discredit 
upon his wife's family. 

In the summer of 1753 Deffand., finding she could not shake 
off her eagerness for society, returned to Paris and reopened 
her salon in Saint-Joseph's, and about the same time she wrote 
to Lespinasse and asked her if she would like to come to Paris 
and serve Deffand in the capacity of companion. The young 
lady was overjoyed, but expressed a fear that she might be 
unhappy in the great world. Deffand replied that Lespinasse 
must examine her feelings carefully and be sure that she would 
not regret her decision. She writes her, "If you come I will not 
announce your arrival. To the people who see you I shall say 
that you are a young lady of my province who intends to enter 
a convent, and that I have offered you lodgings while you are 
finding what you want. After four or five months we shall 



MADAME du DEFFAND 53 

both know how we get along with each other." "However," 
she adds, "the least artifice and the slightest insincerity which 
you should show in your relations with me would be unbear 
able. I am by nature distrustful, and if I detect any finesse 
in those with whom I deal I lose all confidence in them." A 
few days later she wrote to Lespinasse not to think of com 
ing "if you have not perfectly forgotten who you are, and 
if you have not firmly resolved never to think of changing 
your estate." In spite of these precautions Lespinasse came, 
and shortly after, in the first letter that we have from her, 
she says, "If you can appreciate all your absence costs me, 
it would be, if not a second baptism, at least a second agony. 
It is singular, but nevertheless true, that one of the happiest 
moments of my life is this agony, since it gives me the 
opportunity to convince you of the tenderness and sincerity 
of my attachment." Whether or not these words gave voice 
to genuine feeling, Deffand accepted them as real, and for 
ten years Lespinasse remained in her service not only as a 
companion but as a trusted friend. 

Deffand was now totally blind. Sad as that catastrophe 
was for her it has resulted in inestimable benefit to posterity, 
for it led to her devoting a large part of her life to corre 
spondence with her absent friends. The letters which she 
wrote and those which she received are contained in five 
large volumes, and are almost a perfect mirror of eighteenth- 
century society. To one who reads between the lines it is 
easy to trace the causes that were pushing France onward 
into the Revolution. The struggle for personal advancement, 



54 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

the venality of public officials, the indifference of those in 
power to the needs of the common people, could not continue 
without bringing the government to an end. Deffand saw it 
with her sightless eyes. She proffered, it is true, no remedy, 
but in that she was surely much less to be blamed than those 
who were able to see what was going on around them. 

What gives these letters their greatest charm is their 
aptness in delineating character, particularly her own. She 
had the reputation of being an extraordinary judge of peo 
ple. Her inability to see the faces of those about her did not 
lessen, in fact it may have increased, her power to estimate 
the motives that governed people's deeds. She had a genius 
for detecting the weak spot in one's armor. And she did not 
always spare her friends. In saying that people feared her 
she spoke with perfect truth; and they feared her most 
because she was nearly always right. One who knew her 
better perhaps than anyone else has put on record a state 
ment that she interested herself in everything and he had 
never found her in the wrong. 

When she opened her salon for the second time she had 
reached the age of fifty-seven. The frivolities of her youth 
had come to an end. It was in that year that her protector 
Renault was made superintendent of the queen's household. 
Though he still continued when in Paris to frequent her 
salon, his duties at the court deprived her of the glamour of 
his daily presence. She was forced to find new votaries to 
hover around her chair. D'Alembert, whom Renault had 
picked up in the gutter and who had now become a famous 



MADAME du DEFFAND 55 

scholar, still clung to her with undiminished admiration. 
So did Formont, a brilliant dilettante, who she once said was 
her dearest friend; and so did Pont-de-Veyle, a lifelong 
admirer who amused everyone by his eccentricities and 
humor. But such a triumvirate was no basis for the estab 
lishment of a fashionable salon; and so the erstwhile favorite 
of the gay set began to spread her net to draw into her circle 
the fashionable ladies who she knew were needed to give 
luster to her social aspirations. 

Her aunt the duchesse de Luynes was a lady-in-waiting 
and is believed to have used her influence in securing for 
Renault his post of authority with the queen; but she was a 
rather austere personage who looked a little askance upon 
her vivacious niece. The social leader who did more than 
any other to build up Deffand's salon was the marechale 
de Luxembourg. They had long been on terms of intimacy, 
and in their earlier years had both been participants in the 
frivolities of their time. The marechale possessed great 
wealth and exalted position, and, what was more important, 
shared Deffand's craving for social intercourse. Through her 
Defiand was able to fill her modest apartment at Saint- 
Joseph's with the cream of the aristocracy. The marechale 
de Mirepoix, who had a place at court, the princesse de 
Beauvau, madame de Falcalquier, and later the duchesse de 
Choiseul, whose husband was at the head of the government, 
became almost daily visitors at her home. 

Under such auspices it was not strange that Deffand's salon 
became more famous than all the other salons of her time, 



56 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

nor that it should have given the hostess confidence in her 
capacity to direct the flow of contemporary thought. She had 
already established a regular correspondence with Voltaire, 
whom all acknowledged to he the most talented writer of his 
day, and her house became a rendezvous of those who longed 
to regale themselves with the latest exhibitions of his scin 
tillating wit. In this correspondence, which lasted almost 
till Voltaire's death, Deffand developed a literary style which 
brought into play her extraordinary adroitness in pressing 
her arguments under the cloak of cajolery. The flippant 
egotist of Fernay never suspected that she was laughing in 
her sleeve, and he continued to amuse her guests in the belief 
that he was dazzling them by his wisdom long after his bril 
liant correspondent had become aware that his vaunted clev 
erness was a sham. 

For ten years after the reopening of her salon Deffand 
dominated the social life of Paris. Her only rival at this 
period was madame Geoffrin, the rich and popular daughter 
of the bourgeoisie who used to boast that she had never learned 
to write. Deffand's modest resources did not permit her to 
compete with the lavish entertainments that drew impover 
ished geniuses to the house of Geoffrin., but aristocrats were 
always eager to escape from the sumptuousness of their own 
establishments and put up with the simple fare of the cul 
tured and witty hostess who presided at Saint- Joseph's. 

In neither of the rival salons was there much to remind 
one of Rambouillet. Gone was the splendor of the olden days 
when famous scholars were summoned to read their poems 



MADAME du DEFFAND 57 

to the leaders of society. Stateliness and ceremonial no 
longer characterized the Paris salon. The court had taken 
up its abode at Versailles, and Parisian society was given 
over to elements that were fast becoming inimical to the 
king. It is significant of the change in social life that Deffand 
never seems to have alluded to her salon. According to her 
conception it was not a drawing-room it was a supper- 
room to which her friends were bidden every Wednesday 
and Friday night. At these gatherings the distinguished 
marechale de Luxembourg was always the drawing card. 
The marechale de Mirepoix and the princesse de Beauvau 
also lent the luster of their presence, though the astute 
hostess took care to have them invited on different evenings, 
lest they scratch out each other's eyes. D'Alembert could 
always be counted on to amuse the famous ladies by his 
brilliant sallies, and Pont-de-Veyle 5 though often taciturn, 
never failed to come at Deffand's call. Henault, when in 
Paris, sat at his lady's side and kept her cognizant of all that 
was going on. Sometimes as many as twenty-four sat down 
at her board. They generally arrived at eleven and often 
lingered half way through the night. Some of them busied 
themselves with cards, but Deffand, drawing to the fire her 
chair, or tonneau as she called it, kept up a steady stream 
of conversation till the last guest had gone. 

What could she have found to talk about all these years 
without ever seeing the light of day? Nothing but her extraor 
dinary skill in the art of conversation could have kept her 
guests awake. It was an age when polite society had no vital 



58 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

interest in anything. Everybody was conscious of the empti 
ness of existence. They were all living on the surface, afraid 
apparently to go into anything deeply. It was this dread of 
penetrating into the serious things of life that drove people 
to develop the art of talking. Modes of expression took the 
place of realities. People vied with each other in speaking 
cleverly about nothing. Witticism was ranked much higher 
than erudition. Deffand illustrates this tendency as well as 
almost any other person of her time. She was much given 
to saying clever things. When cardinal de Polignac told her 
the story of Saint-Denis whose head was cut off at Mont- 
martre and who picked it up and carried it six miles to its 
final resting place, she remarked, "Oh, sir, in a case like 
that it is only the first step that counts." At another occasion 
she said, "Supper is one of the four main purposes of life; 
what the other three are I can't remember." 

In the intervals between her supper parties Deffand was 
indefatigable in the cultivation of her friends. If they were 
accessible, scarce a day passed when she did not sup with 
one of them. With those who were absent she kept up an 
almost daily correspondence. Owing to her infirmity she did 
not regulate her life like other people. Day and night to her 
were one. Often she did not retire until four o'clock in the 
morning. Then she would lie abed and breakfast while others 
were getting up from lunch. Her afternoons were spent in 
dictating letters or in listening to the reading of some book. 
Dinner, if she needed one ? was served at six, and then she 



MADAME du DEFFAND 59 

was ready for any sort of excitement that the night might 
offer. 

The fact was she found life a dreadful bore, and all her 
social glory meant nothing to her but a relief from ennui. It 
was not so much the vacuity of her intellectual life as the 
consciousness that she lacked real friends. She was a creature 
of vehement emotions. Though she had left behind her the 
passion of youth, her craving for unselfish devotion was as 
keen as ever, and every day brought her evidence that what 
she craved was getting farther from her. Renault's attach 
ment, which had never been deep, was gradually diminish 
ing, and d'Alemberfs feeling toward her was utterly devoid 
of sentiment. Among her women friends the marechale de 
Luxembourg came nearer than any other to touch her heart, 
but Deffand herself said their bond of friendship was little 
more than an ancient habit. The others, she knew, were 
thoroughly insincere. 

It was about the year 1760 that Deffand established a 
friendship which brought her into intimate relations with 
the most powerful man in France. The due de Choiseul, 
whose intimacy with madame de Pompadour had raised 
him to the position of minister of foreign affairs, had gained 
an enviable reputation for sagacity in handling the country's 
relations with other powers and had amassed an enormous 
fortune as a reward for distributing public office among his 
friends. Though regarded by many as an adroit politician 
rather than a profound statesman, he enjoyed unbounded 



60 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

popularity because of his affability and his lavish entertain 
ments. Deffand was always a little awed by his magnificence., 
and, in fact, it was the duchesse de Choiseul rather than the 
minister that aroused her deepest interest. Deffand was a 
distant relative of an earlier Choiseul, and in a moment of 
playfulness she pictured herself as the grandchild of the 
present duke. For the rest of her life this playfulness was 
continued and she always treated the youthful duchesse as a 
grandmother whose wisdom and instructions it was her 
natural duty to respect. 

So far as externals went there was not much in common 
between the immature duchesse and her seventy-years-old 
grandchild. Choiseul's wife was an innocent little creature 
against whom scandal never raised its voice. Deffand once 
remarked that she would have loved her more if she had 
had some faults she was too nearly perfect. Though she was 
always setting men's hearts on fire, her own escaped the 
flame. "The chief use of women/' she observed, "is to curb 
men." In using the curb, however, she must have used a 
gentle hand, for everybody loved her and some thought it 
would have been wiser had she held her husband with a 
tighter rein. Deffand was drawn to her partly through a long 
ing for repose. The youthful grandmother always was serene. 
Deffand, who was bored by her own existence, found untold 
comfort in the joyousness of her friend. In one thing, too, 
their natures were much alike they allowed nothing to 
stand in the way of their emotions. The duchesse, it is true, 
would never admit the value of sentiment, and made a show 



MADAME du DEFFAND 61 

of enjoying philosophical discussions a little empty, as all 
such discussions are. Perhaps that was her method of curbing 
men. But her unwavering allegiance to her husband, and her 
lasting devotion to her poor old blind friend, show that 
philosophy was not the guiding principle of her life. Deffand, 
who hated to talk seriously, often went so far as to declare 
that she cared nothing for intellect. "Facts," she once said, 
"are surer than arguments, and sentiment is worth more 
than intelligence." 

After ten years of almost daily intercourse the friendship 
of these two women was tested by a violent upheaval. 
Madame de Pompadour died and was succeeded in the king's 
affections by madame du Barry whom Choiseul had bitterly 
opposed. As a result the minister fell from power and was 
exiled to his chateau at Chanteloup on the Loire. To add 
to his distress no one was allowed to visit him without obtain 
ing permission from the king, and few dared ask for such 
permission lest they incur the enmity of du Barry. 

Deffand had special ground for apprehension, for she was 
drawing a pension which Choiseul had secured for her while 
madame de Pompadour was in power. It is much to Deffand's 
credit that she proposed to take the chance and was deterred 
only by the insistence of the duke. After a while the ban was 
removed, and Deffand did go out to Chanteloup. It was in 
May, 1772, that she made the trip. The bishop of Arras acted 
as her escort, and she was accompanied by her secretary, 
two lackeys, and her maids. She stayed five weeks. Every 
thing was so grand it seemed to her like going to court, and 



62 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

she writes that she never had a moment's ennui till the visit 
was at an end. She found the "grandmother" more affec 
tionate than ever and to all appearances in no way cast down 
by her lot. In spite of the loss of his emoluments the exiled 
minister was pouring out his money like water. In his mag 
nificent palace he kept fifty servants, and twenty people were 
often seated at his table. There were eighty-five blooded 
cattle in his stables. He and his wife whiled away their time 
in riding, and in theatrical exhibitions in which he and his 
guests took part. They were both much touched by the sym 
pathy of those who had known them in his days of power, and 
he erected on his grounds a stately pagoda on which were 
carved the names of all those who visited him in his exile. 
The duchesse declared that she had never been so happy in 
her life. The exile lasted four years till the death of 
Louis XV in 1774. Then the Choiseuls returned to Paris and 
the duke celebrated his return by giving an entertainment 
for all the servants of those who had stood by him in his 
disgrace. It was, of course, a joy to Deffand to have the 
Choiseuls in Paris, though she was never able to shake off 
her trepidation in the presence of the famous minister. Once, 
on his chiding her for always declining invitations to his 
suppers, she replied jocosely that she would accept if he 
would ask her three months in advance, as she needed time 
to prepare for his august presence. 

One of the tragic episodes in the life of Deffand was her 
parting with Julie de Lespinasse. Coming to Paris almost 
as a waif, Julie's heart was filled with gratitude to the bene- 



MADAME du DEFFAND 63 

factress through whom she was given her first vision of 
abundant life. The nightly gatherings at Saint-Joseph's 
brought her into close relations with persons whose thoughts 
were fixed on pleasurable ends. Although a bar sinister dis 
figured her escutcheon, she was conscious that the blood pul 
sating through her body was not a whit inferior to that of 
her employer or of her employer's guests. That she would 
make no effort to assert her right was written in the bond, 
but her benefactress had not exacted a promise that Les- 
pinasse would suppress the emotions that are inseparable 
from youth. So far as we can learn she performed with 
exactness the duties for which she was engaged. Deffand 
wrote to a friend that she was every day more contented with 
Lespinasse. Had she been able to use her eyes, she would 
have seen things that would have given her less cause for 
praise. Julie, though not exactly beautiful, was one of those 
women to whom men instinctively are drawn, and it could 
hardly be expected that the attention which they all showed 
her would have left her completely cold. Deffand had warned 
her that she had two intimate friends, Formont and d'Alem- 
bert, whom she loved passionately, not so much for their 
charm or their friendship as for their absolute integrity. 
There was also Turgot, later controleur general, of whom 
Deffand wrote, "There was no one but he who really inter 
ested himself in me, who could advise me, who shared my 
troubles. He was not tender or affectionate, but he was loyal 
and solid." Between these men and Deffand there was a bond 
of real friendship. They were talented men whom she rejoiced 



64 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

to have about her not only because their companionship was 
cheering but also because they contributed to the prestige of 
her salon. Her relations with them were exceedingly cordial 
yet based entirely on intellectual confidence. When Julie came 
into the picture, a more exhilarating atmosphere permeated 
the apartment. Deffand still dominated the course of con 
versation, but before her sightless eyes there were often 
exhibitions of gallantry in which she had no part. No proof 
exists that Julie was yet guilty of any untoward behavior. 
She was under a heavy obligation to Deffand not only for 
lifting her out of obscurity but also for securing to her a 
modest pension from the king; and she had too much sense 
to run the risk of incurring her employer's wrath. But, as her 
subsequent history shows, she was a woman with a double 
heart, and as time wore on she grew less careful to conceal 
her duplicity. It is related, though not on unimpeachable 
testimony, that her admirers sometimes lingered with her in 
the antechambers while Deffand was kept fretting about their 
late arrival, and that this misbehavior finally came to 
Deffand's ears. Whether or not Deffand ever discovered any 
actual wrongdoing is uncertain, but, at any rate, after 
Lespinasse had been in her service about ten years, Deffand 
discovered that some of her dearest friends were paying 
marked attention to Lespinasse and it aroused her indigna 
tion to find that the young lady whom she had so abundantly 
befriended was beginning to outshine her in her own salon. 
The break seems to have reached its climax in a hasty quar 
rel in which both parties lost their tempers and used language 



MADAME du, DEFFAND 65 

which made it impossible for their cordial relationship to 
continue. Deffand's pride was touched and she told Julie to 
leave the house, at least for a while. After a few months 
Julie begged to be taken back, but Deffand replied that she 
could not do so till Julie had shown repentance for the cruel 
words which she had used to her. Meantime, d'Alembert's 
attentions to the young lady became so marked that Julie 
found she could get along without the protection of 
Deffand, and she opened a salon of her own which almost 
rivalled that of her benefactress. 

To the end of her life Deffand did not relent. After the 
tragedy occurred she almost never mentioned Lespinasse. 
Twelve years later Julie died, and on the same day Deffand 
wrote a long letter to the duchesse de Choiseul; but in that 
letter she made no mention whatever of the death. 

With the departure of Lespinasse, d'Alembert went com 
pletely out of Deffand's life, and it was largely on this 
account that Deffand sided against the encyclopedistes of 
whom d'Alembert was one of the leading spirits. The publi 
cation of the encyclopedic was one of the momentous events 
in French history. It paved the way for the Revolution. 
Starting merely as a scheme for making money, it became 
an effective moulder of public opinion. The director of the 
venture was a rather disreputable scholar named Diderot 
who had gained considerable fame through his philosophical 
writings as well as through the publication of a very indecent 
book, Les bijous indiscrets. Never would the encyclopedic 
have got the hold it did, had not Diderot secured as col- 



66 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

laborators some of the most brilliant and original writers of 
the day. Voltaire, and Rousseau, and Montesquieu con 
tributed a number of articles, as did also Turgot. D'Alem- 
bert wrote the preface, which declared that the purpose was 
to trace the origin of human knowledge and the relationship 
that existed among its various parts. The relation of art to 
science, of politics to religion, of morals to society, could 
not of course be discussed without resort to much fine-spun 
argument in which the contributors did not always agree, but 
they all began and it is this that gave the book its im 
portance with the doctrine that the basis of all knowledge 
was the experience of the average man. There was no such 
thing as the supernatural. That of course was a direct blow 
to religion. The only guide to conduct was the prompting 
which the individual received from his own experience. So 
that each man's intellectual and bodily nature must tell him 
what he had a right to do. From that it is easy to see what a 
cogent argument one could offer for immorality. Anything 
which his nature dictated was right. There was no reason 
why a man's conduct should be subject to external restraint. 
Thus one was led to the conclusion that he should not be sub 
ject to governmental control. 

As was to be expected the encyclopedic awoke the hos 
tility of the authorities, and on two occasions the book was 
suppressed by the government on the ground that it set forth 
maxims tending to destroy the royal authority, to establish 
a spirit of independence and revolt, and, in obscure and 
equivocal language, to erect a substructure of error, of cor- 



MADAME du DEFFAND 67 

rupt morals, and of irreligion and unbelief. Later the publi 
cation was allowed to continue, and it became a popular 
vehicle of thought among various classes of people. It 
pleased those who found moral restraint irksome and it 
appealed to those who were opposed to the rapacity of the 
clergy or to the inefficiency of the king. 

It is proof of the soundness of Deffand's judgment that she 
scorned the encyclopedistes. Apparently she had no concep 
tion of the harmful effect which their doctrines were destined 
to have. But elaborate argumentation always irritated her. 
The proponents of these new ideas prided themselves on 
being called philosophers, and philosophy was to her utterly 
meaningless. To speak the truth, a great many of the articles 
in the encyclopedic, though not entirely meaningless, were 
utterly fanciful, and, after a few years of association with 
the movement, the wisest of the contributors became dis 
gusted and dropped out. D'Alembert remained only long 
enough to establish his reputation as a leading scholar. Vol 
taire thought the dissertations were lacking in method. The 
article on woman he asserted must have been written by the 
lackeys of Gil Bias; and he wrote to Diderot, "I hope you 
will permit no more such articles as those on femme and fat, 
and no more such idle declamations, such puerilities and 
commonplaces." He said the encyclopedic was disfigured 
by a thousand ridiculous articles and schoolboy decla 
mations. 

To get a true picture of Deffand's views regarding the 
philosophers and indeed regarding many other matters one 



68 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

must study all her correspondence, for she never took pains 
to elaborate her ideas by long dissertations. She dealt much 
in epigrams and in sudden bursts of eloquence which came 
often from her pen with the force of an explosion. Many of 
her assertions seem to have been prompted by sentiment 
rather than by stern processes of reason. Especially was that 
true, as perhaps it always must be, in her judgment of peo 
ple. She found delight in calling herself a cynic and the 
great chair in which she sat her tonneau, in imitation of 
Diogenes and his tub. In a moment of exasperation she 
ejaculated, "All men are fools or miscreants, most of them 
both/ 9 and she added that people were becoming greater 
fools every day. "At present," she said, "there is nothing 
but artifice, malice, extravagance." She declared that she 
spent her time "in tearing off the masks." 

To be perfectly honest, there were plenty of masks that 
she was justified in tearing off. There has seldom been an 
age more artificial than that in which madame du Deffand 
lived. In politics, in literature, in conversation, you cannot 
seem to find anything really genuine. Louis XV himself was 
nothing but a sham. He pretended to govern the country but 
in reality he governed nothing. It was he who was governed, 
first by his mistresses, and then by the clergy and nobility. 
His financial accounting was utterly fictitious; the budget 
was never balanced, and there was no way of estimating 
what the expenditures of the government were likely to be. 
The persons who served under him vied with one another in 
the splendor of their establishments but many of them were 



MADAME du DEFFAND 69 

bankrupt or would be as soon as they fell out of royal favor, 
and very few of them possessed any special qualifications 
for the offices which they had undertaken to fill. Society 
was made up largely of those who held these lucrative posts, 
supplemented by hangers-on who were dependent wholly on 
pensions which through someone's influence they were receiv 
ing from the king. These were the people who belonged to 
Deffand's set, and it is not strange that she should have some 
times revolted against their insincerity. 

It must not be supposed, however, that she did not find 
much to commend. There are various degrees of perversity 
in the human race, and Deffand's skill in analyzing character 
enabled her often to discover sterling qualities in those 
whom a less discriminating observer might easily have 
regarded as altogether bad. Frequently, as in the case of 
Lespinasse, she allowed herself to become embittered by a 
personal affront. It may well be that she gave too much 
weight to her personal likes and dislikes. But she seldom 
failed to diagnose correctly the salient features of individual 
character. Among those whom she entertained at her apart 
ment was the famous statesman Charles James Fox. Occa 
sionally he would bring his friends around to Saint-Joseph's 
after supper was over and they would play cards for heavy 
stakes till dawn. Her infirmity of course debarred her from 
participation in this sport, but it did not prevent her from 
becoming familiar with the idiosyncrasies of her guests, and 
what she detected did not add to her esteem for Fox. She 
could find no point of contact with him. His only interests 



70 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

were politics and gambling, neither of which appealed to 
her. "He has not a bad heart/' she says, "but he has no 
principles and no regard for those who have. He never 
troubles himself about the morrow. He is in dire poverty, 
with no possibility of paying his debts; but that makes no 
difference to him." 

In 1773 she made the acquaintance of madame Necker, 
whose husband was reputed to be the richest man in France. 
The Neckers were protestants and not received in polite 
society, but she was often invited to supper at their house. 
At first she did not comprehend them. They lacked the polish 
to which she was accustomed. She was shocked by the noisy 
manner in which their household was conducted. Later, when 
she became accustomed to their brusqueness, she grew to 
appreciate their sterling qualities, and established almost 
an intimacy with madame Necker. "She is amiable, and not 
a fool or insipid much better fitted for society than most 
of the ladies of the great world." Necker himself always 
failed to inspire her with confidence. She regarded him as a 
man of talent and absolutely honest, but when he was sum 
moned by the king to straighten out the finances she doubted 
whether he would be successful. She said he was introducing 
all sorts of reforms which pleased the people, but that he 
was doing more harm than good. 

It made her laugh to see her old friend Turgot, who had 
deserted her for Lespinasse, appointed controleur general. 
"Now you are all going to become encyclopedistes. Let us 
hope the people of the market-place will become so, too." 



MADAME du DEFFAND 71 

Turgot did not last long, however. He was dismissed and 
his post given to a friend of the due de Choiseul. Defiand 
was overjoyed. She said Turgot was a man of good inten 
tions but no sense, and moreover very ambitious and pre 
sumptuous. 

As for du Barry, no color was black enough to paint her 
picture. She was a monkey, a parrot, with no mind of her 
own. "She rules everything, and is as insolent as she is 
stupid." And she quotes these verses about the queen and 
du Barry: 

"De deux Venus on parle dans le monde: 
De toutes deux gouverner fut le lot; 
L'une naquit de Fecume de Fonde, 
I/autre naquit de Fecume du pot." 

Louis XV she never liked. When he died, a verse was 
going the rounds which she was bold enough to quote: 

"Ci-git Louis le quinzieme 
Du nom de bien-aime le deuxieme 
Dieu nous preserve du troisieme." 

The historian Edward Gibbon when in Paris was con 
stantly at her house, and often took her out to supper. She 
found him entertaining but inclined to show off. 

Regarding the marechale de Luxembourg, who entered 
into her life more than any other woman, she sometimes 



72 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

expressed herself with unusual frankness. At one time she 
wrote, "I am only fairly comfortable with her. She wants 
to be important,, sententious, epigrammatic and she is 
merely tiresome." And to a friend who couldn't see what the 
two had in common she confided that their relations were 
simply a habit which had the appearance of a friendship. 
They certainly were a rather incongruous pair. Deffand's 
infirmity coupled with her straitened circumstances gave 
her a constant sense of dependence whereas the marechale's 
wealth and exalted lineage rendered her free as air. She 
continued her life of gayety long after Deffand had been 
forced to give hers up. Deffand could never quite believe 
her friend was sincere though she was confident that the 
marechale would never do anything unfair. Perhaps the 
clearest statement of Deffand's feelings is contained in the 
pen-portrait in which she said that Luxembourg "without 
being presumptuous dominates unconsciously everyone about 
her. She is faithful, discreet, and generous. People fear her 
rather than love her. She hates affectation." At any rate, what 
ever their feelings toward each other were, they clung to 
each other right up to the end, and when Deffand was eighty- 
three she wrote that Luxembourg was her best friend, and 
she added, "If in the past her faults have outweighed her 
good traits, they do not now. No one has a better heart, is 
more constant, or more charitable." 

From a worldly point of view, at any rate, Luxembourg 
was the best friend Deffand ever had. Almost all of Deffand's 
intimates were connected in one way or another with the 



MADAME du DEFFAND 73 

marechale's family. There was the marquise de Boufflers, 
a relative of Luxembourg's first husband and one of the 
clever women of her day. Apart from her inveterate taste for 
gambling she was a delightful companion and her sparkling 
wit enabled her to touch a chord that often vibrated in unison 
with the sprightliness of Deffand. Deffand playfully called 
her the "oiseau" because she was always on the wing. Ever 
hovering about the marquise was the prince de Beauffremont, 
whom Deffand found "sweet and easy to get along with. But 
he has no principles, no sentiment. He never moves until 
you pull the strings." Then there was the other marquise de 
Boufflers, the gay and venturesome widow whom Deffand 
called the "idol" because of the prince de Conti's infatuation 
for her. When Conti died the marquise had no difficulty in 
finding another lover to take his place. Deffand found her 
entertaining., but could never quite forgive her for continu 
ing her friendship with "the Lespinasse." Another of the 
Luxembourg tribe was the marechale de Mirepoix, also an 
inveterate gambler. This lady seems to have been a sort of 
fire-eater. The marechale de Luxembourg couldn't endure 
her, and Deffand who tried to keep on good terms with both 
of them never dared to invite them to her supper parties 
on the same day. Mirepoix also incurred the enmity of the 
Choiseuls, and when the due de Choiseul fell from power 
she was given a place at court with a stipend of a hundred 
thousand francs a year. While this lasted she was a little in 
clined to give Deffand the cold shoulder. But Deffand, much as 
she regretted to see a feud spring up among her friends, never 



74 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

lost her liking for the fiery marechale and in one of her letters 
heaped upon her this rather extravagant praise: "Mirepoix is 
sweet and gentle, and the love that fills her heart shows itself 
in her face and gives to all her actions a peace and warmth 
which makes her loved by everybody." What kept her close 
to Deffand was that she was the sister of the prince de 
Beauvau, on whom the afflicted occupant of Saint- Joseph's 
leaned more dependently than on any other man she knew. 
Her "faithful prince," as the duchesse de Choiseul once 
called him, was a gentleman of quiet demeanor whose kindly 
assistance was always extended to persons in distress. 

And surely he could have found no one better entitled 
than Deffand to his support. Her financial condition was 
always somewhat straitened. She had some income from 
the estate which she inherited from her mother and this was 
increased by a pension of six thousand francs per annum that 
Renault secured her from the queen. This pension was cut down 
later to three thousand francs per annum. One of her friends 
generously offered to make up to her this loss, but she de 
clined this offer and wrote that she still had an income of 
thirty-five thousand francs a year and that was enough for 
her to live on. This seems pretty modest in that extravagant 
age when the comtesse de la Marche was spending three hun 
dred thousand francs to journey from Paris to her country 
place. Deffand's suppers must have often given her worry, but 
she certainly spent little on herself. Most people in society got 
up at ten, dined at two or three, and supped at nine. Deffand 



MADAME du DEFFAND 75 

ordinarily spent the morning in bed, dispensed with dinner, 
and so had few expenses until the sun went down. 

With her closed eyelids there was not much that she could 
do alone. Perhaps that was the reason why she had such a 
yearning for friendship. To her, friendship was the greatest 
boon in life. "Those who have no sentiment," she used to 
say, "avoid violent suffering, but they get no real pleasure/ 9 
Other things fade away. "Friendship is the only passion that 
does not die with age." And the fact is she needed friends 
more than most of us. Many of the people about her she 
knew were not real friends, but with her a little friendship 
was better than none at all. "I shall persist to the end of my 
life in the mistake of believing that the only happiness in the 
world is to love and to be with the person one loves." She 
once wrote, "We all need love, or at least society." And she 
was not far from right, though it is pathetic to note how 
much she suffered in trying to satisfy her needs. There is a 
romance of friendship more touching sometimes than the 
romance of love. Often she almost gave up in despair. "Some 
times I think friendship is a chimera," and she constantly 
remarked that society was a dreadful bore. That came, of 
course, from her incapacity to take part in many of the things 
that amused others. Almost everybody was playing cards 
and for tremendous stakes. A sarcastic English observer 
remarked there weren't fifty people in Paris who had any 
occupation other than gambling. Deffand went frequently to 
the opera and to the theater, but she made the comment 



76 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

and with perfect justice that most of the plays performed 
in her time were insipid. 

Almost the only other resources that Deifand had were 
writing letters and reading books. Soon after she became 
blind she secured the services of a man named Wiart as 
secretary. He was devoted to her heart and soul and remained 
with her twenty-seven years in fact until her death. He 
was a most important personage in her household. The 
duchesse de Choiseul called him Defiand's governor. He 
read to her two or three hours a day and she dictated to him 
most of her letters, though she invented a frame which 
enabled her to write her most intimate letters with her own 
hand. In her library there were about two thousand books, 
and they were a great comfort to her. She said, "There are 
only two pleasures in the world for me society and read 
ing." With the aid of Wiart and her companion, mademoiselle 
Sanadon, she read almost everything that came out, but 
she was exceedingly critical of what she read. In a moment 
of exasperation she wrote, "I don't like authors, their taste, 
their knowledge, or their morals." She hated history and 
metaphysics. Nothing gave her real enjoyment except letters 
and romances. Of the latter she found nothing in French 
that compared with the English. She loved the portrayal of 
character in Tom Jones and Clarissa Harlowe. It seemed 
to her that the French romances were not true to life. 

Some of her comments on human nature show real genius. 
Of a lady whom she knew slightly she remarked, "Her 
intellect is like space it has no dimensions. She has no senti- 



MADAME du DEFFAND 77 

ment, no passion. She is like a flame that gives out no heat." 

"Men do not love women for any merit they find in us 
but for the merit we find in them." 

"Friendship cannot exist without confidence, and without 
confidence we are alone in the world." 

"You English are subject to no rule or method. You let 
genius grow without forcing it to take this or that form. . . . 
We French are children of art." 

"The English are strange beings. One can never under 
stand them. Each one is original. There are no two alike. 
We are just the opposite. When you have seen one of our 
courtiers you have seen all." 

"It is better to be a bad original than a good copy." 

To a friend who had written in praise of youth she replied 
that in youth, charm and a lovely face take the place of 
intelligence; but that all attachments of youth are based on 
bodily impulses, and persons who form such attachments 
find old age nothing but a desert. 

Of political matters she professed to be profoundly igno 
rant. When Russia and Prussia were coming to blows in 
1772 she wrote, "These things are above my head," To be 
sure she took sides against the king of France in his quarrels 
with the parliaments, and she disliked his minister the 
due d'Aiguillon, but that was only because he had displaced 
her friend ChoiseuL "Public affairs," she said, "sometimes 
surprise me, but they don't interest me." At the end of 1772, 
when the brothers of the king were pardoned for their oppo 
sition and went back to court, she wrote, "Now we shall see 



78 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

how the combat of the ferocious beasts will end. What a 
delight it would be if they should all strangle one another." 
In 1775, riots were breaking out all over France on account 
of the scarcity of bread. Deffand comments on the fermen 
tation that was going on everywhere, but she never suggests 
a remedy. The American Revolution was at its inception, but 
it drew from her only a passing comment. "I have heard no 
one say that we are protecting America. I don't believe it, 
but I am very ignorant, so that doesn't prove anything." 
Franklin was then in Paris and she had him with his cap 
and spectacles at her apartment. Among the persons that she 
asked to meet him were a number of those who favored the 
cause of the colonies. Her inclination led her to espouse the 
English cause. "I am a royalist," she says, "though I don't 
know why unless it is to please my friend the English ambas 
sador. I don't understand these things." The fact is, she 
belonged to that class of people who pave the way for revo 
lution who see that things are wrong but never cry out 
against them. She was satisfied to let things drift. She hated 
the artificial life of the society in which she was placed, but 
didn't feel called upon to revolt against it. "I am not a 
fanatic about liberty," was the way she put it. "I think it an 
error to suppose liberty can exist in a democracy, as you 
merely have a thousand tyrants instead of one. . . . We are like 
sheep. We pasture tranquilly and you shear us a little close 
while you are getting ready to cut our throats; but what 
should we gain by rebellion?" That frame of mind was 
characteristic of the times. All men's thoughts were busied 



MADAME du DEFFAND 79 

on just one thing to get their share of the stream of money 
that was flowing like water from the royal coffers. 

There was one thing about Deffand for which she certainly 
deserves no praise. She had the habit, like most people of her 
time, of indulging in extravagant flattery of those in lofty 
place, and of continuing on cordial terms with persons whom 
she criticized behind their backs. Her letters to Voltaire are 
weighted down with asseverations of admiration; yet in writ 
ing to the duchesse de Choiseul she says that Voltaire, at 
any rate in the latter years of his life, was a greatly over 
rated man. But it must not be forgotten that her helpless con 
dition made it imperative for her to keep open every avenue 
of help. After Renault's death she felt it more than ever 
necessary to keep the friends she had. "I have always been 
under the necessity of establishing myself and maintaining 
my position. I have always had to lean on someone." She 
admitted with perfect frankness that she had to tolerate many 
persons for whom she had no respect. 

In her continuous effort to keep afloat Deffand had to go 
through many periods of deep depression, and occasionally 
when dejected she would let some phrase escape which did 
not express her genuine feelings. When she declared that 
she could get no pleasure out of books she did not state things 
exactly as they were. Who would not become weary if read 
to for three or four hours every day? Though she talked 
a good deal about ennui it may well be doubted whether she 
differed much from those about her. Everybody was dis 
gusted with the emptiness of society and wanted to escape 



80 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

from it. Surfeited with pleasures, and having no serious busi 
ness except the struggle to keep their place at court,, most 
men and women, too spent their days in bed and their 
nights in gambling. The only thing that relieved the 
monotony of existence was going out to tiresome suppers and 
stuffing one's self with food. Even that had its drawback, for 
almost everyone was suffering from gout. Deffand prided 
herself above all else on being sincere, and she probably told 
the truth when she declared, "I detest the life that I am 
leading." 

Still, she kept at it till the end. When she was seventy-six 
she gives the duchesse de Choiseul a record of her daily 
life. "I pass the night, dear grandmama, without sleep. As a 
rule I don't fall asleep till noon of the following day. Then 
I am read to for five hours. Sometimes I get up at five or 
six. Company arrives and I almost always have people here 
till nine or till one in the morning if I sup at home. If I 
don't, I go out at nine." 

Her vitality was nothing short of amazing. Here is a rec 
ord of one week. Sunday she had fourteen persons at sup 
per; Monday, stayed all day with Renault and at midnight 
went out to supper; Wednesday, spent the evening with the 
English ambassador and stayed till midnight; Thursday, 
supped with Renault, who had a number of guests; Friday, 
with Renault, who was entertaining mesdames de Luxem 
bourg, de Lauzun, and de Boufflers; Saturday, again with 
Renault and a number of duchesses; and every evening 



MADAME du DEFFAND 81 

called on her friend Crawfurt with whom she always found 
the Duke of Queensbury. 

When seventy-two, we find her supping with the princesse 
de Beauvau, where she ran into the marechale de Luxembourg 
and the marquise de Boufflers. She got home at four o'clock 
in the morning. 

When eighty, she had at supper mesdames de Grammont, 
de Beauvau, de Luxembourg, de Lauzun, de Boufflers, and 
messieurs de Choiseul, de Beauvau, the ambassador from 
Naples, Saint-Priest, and Gibbon. The night before, she had 
supped with madame de La Valliere and then, at one in the 
morning, had gone round to the princesse de Beauvau's. A 
few days later she went to the opera where she enjoyed the 
music but found the recitative frightful. 

When she was eighty-one, Beauvau supped with her while 
his wife was supping with the princesse de Poix. These two 
ladies, however, came around at half-past one and stayed 
till three. 

After she reached the age of eighty-two she didn't go about 
much but still kept up her Wednesday and Friday suppers, 
often with as many as twenty guests, chiefly the old stand- 
bys mesdames de Luxembourg, de Lauzun, de Boufflers, de 
Broglie, de Beauvau, de Cambis, de Mirepoix, together with 
four or five bishops and several members of the diplomatic 
corps. It was getting to be a good deal of an effort. "It is a 
torment to me to get up my supper parties. I go to a thou 
sand troubles to bring together a fashionable gathering that 
bores me to death." 



82 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

Say what you will, she must have had a charming per 
sonality to hold these people right up to the end. She could 
not have had the devotion of Pont-de-Veyle for fifty-five 
years and the affection of "grandmama" for twenty, had there 
not been something lovable about her. The famous Mon 
tesquieu wrote of her, "I love that woman with all my heart. 
She pleases me. She diverts me. There is not a moment's 
tedium when you are with her." 

It is related of her that after she became blind her face re 
tained all its delicate charm. She kept her eyelids completely 
closed and in talking she always turned her face to the person 
with whom she talked. Though everyone flattered her on ac 
count of the charm which pervaded her correspondence she 
was always modest about it. She said she knew her letters were 
superficial, and she added, "I don't know a word of grammar. 
My manner of expressing myself comes to me as a gift, and is 
wholly independent of rules." Yet she was not blind to the 
merits which she had. "When I compare myself with other 
women, I feel more respect for myself. I think I am more 
faithful and more sincere than any other. But I am weak." 

When Deffand was sixty-eight years old one of the most 
gifted members of the literary coterie in London came over 
to Paris to buy rare porcelains. Among his intimates was 
George Augustus Selwyn, a brilliant but somewhat erratic 
Englishman who had spent much of his life in the French 
capital. Knowing that his friend enjoyed the society of enter 
taining women, Selwyn handed him a letter of introduction 
to the marquise du Defiand; and thus began a friendship 



MADAME du DEFFAND 83 

which absorbed Deffand's attention for the remaining fif 
teen years of her life. 

Nature designed Horace Walpole to play a leading part In 
world affairs. Of aristocratic birth, inheritor of ample means, 
educated at Eton and Cambridge, with engaging manners 
and almost unequalled skill in literary expression, he might 
easily have taken rank with his distinguished father, the 
great premier of England. But along with his ennobling 
qualities there was a strain of less substantial impulses 
which reduced him almost to the level of an eccentric dilet 
tante. When he came into Deffand's life he was forty-nine 
years of age and his habits had become fixed. He had settled 
down as a bachelor in his artistic, though somewhat bizarre, 
mansion called Strawberry Hill at Twickenham, near Lon 
don, had sat in parliament for several sessions without 
apparently taking any interest in public affairs, and had 
done some rather desultory imaginative writing. His roman 
tic nature had brought him into close intimacy with the poet 
Gray and his love of irresponsibility had led him into com 
panionship with the brilliant but reckless statesman Charles 
James Fox. He had grown to look on life with the eyes of 
a cynic. 

At his very first meeting with Deffand he was completely 
enthralled. Although she was twenty years his senior, her 
vivacity aroused in him an exhilaration which he tried to 
make himself believe he had suppressed for good and all. 
"She is delicious," he wrote to a friend. "She retains all her 
vivacity, wit, passions, and agreeableness, makes new songs 



84 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

and epigrams and remembers every one of them that has been 
written in the last eighty years. She laughs at the clergy and 
philosophers. Her judgment is seldom wrong, but her conduct 
always wrong, for she is all love and hatred, still anxious 
to be loved I don't mean by lovers." 

He remained in Paris about six months, and was at her 
suppers twice almost every week. While there he told her 
that he loved her, but begged her never to mention his name 
to his friends. Immediately after he left she wrote him that 
no one could love him more tenderly than she did. "I will 
talk with you just as if we were tete-a-tete in front of the 
fire/' 

There was something in Walpole's make-up that rendered 
it impossible for him thoroughly to understand Deifand. In 
the portraits which we have of him there is a lack of virility 
in his face. His eyes were beautiful, but almost effeminate, 
and convey the impression that he could not comprehend 
exactly the varied character of love. His knowledge of the 
French tongue was meager and his acquaintance with French 
women limited, thus leading him to give a wrong inter 
pretation to Deffand's words. Stupidly enough, he imagined 
there was something sensuous in her feelings, and it irritated 
him, coming from a woman of sixty-eight. So she had to 
explain: "Anything that resembles love is hateful to me, but 
I am made for friendship. My heart was never made for 
anything but that." Not satisfied, he wrote her that she was 
indiscreet and romantic. "Yes," she replied, "I am indis 
creet, but surely you cannot imagine that you have turned 



MADAME du DEFFAND 85 

my head. . . . You may be Abelard, if you wish, but I could 
never be Heloise." He was very fond of tbe letters of the 
marquise de Sevigne, and she tried to make him understand 
her feelings by referring to those letters. "Read them again 
and again," she exhorts., "and see if friendship cannot make 
one feel and say things a thousand times more tender than 
all the romances in the world." 

The following year Walpole wrote her that he was coming 
again to Paris and solely to see her. She wrote back that she 
would always be in her little cell ready to receive him, but 
that he would be free to do anything he pleased. "What a 
sad thing for me that I have formed such a feeling of friend 
ship for you, and how little you have understood me when 
you have interpreted it as love. I do not love you just because 
I esteem you, nor because I seem to have found in you the 
qualities for which I have searched in vain these fifty years. 
That is what has charmed me and made it impossible for 
me not to attach myself to you." 

He arrived on August 23rd, 1767, and rushed right to Saint- 
Joseph's to have supper with her. On October 9, 1767, he 
left Paris, and she wrote him the same day, "What of it if 
one is old and blind? If a woman's heart is full to the brim, 
she lacks nothing but the object on which her heart is set, 
and if that object responds to her feelings there is nothing 
more to be desired." 

Deffand had now reached a state of ecstasy which wholly 
changed her character. She had found her hero, her god, 
before whom she was eager to obliterate herself. She called 



86 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

him her tutor to whom she looked for instruction in the 
conduct of her life. Her letters to him followed each other 
in quick succession and were filled with such expressions of 
adoration that he became alarmed; and he kept enjoining 
upon her to restrain the extravagance of her expressions. 
She begged him to pardon her, for she was only a woman. 
"Je suis femme, tres-femme, femmelette." He wrote back, 
"If you want our friendship to last, give it a less tragic tone." 
Following his instructions, she resorted to pleasantry, and 
wrote him that he must write to her regularly every two 
weeks. "If you don't I shall say to my secretary: Tack up 
and fly to London. Proclaim in all the streets that you come 
from me, that you have orders to go and live with Horace 
Walpole, that he is my tutor, that I am his pupil, that I am 
passionately in love with him, that I am going to establish 
myself at Strawberry Hill, and that there is no scandal which 
I shall refrain from stirring up." 

This jollity pleased him no better. He wrote her that her 
letters were ridiculous and she replied she knew they were. 
"Has an old sybille, shut up in her cage and seated on her 
tonneau, a right to talk familiarly to Apollo, a philosopher, 
in short the only man of the era?" To allay his anxiety she 
wrote that she was old enough to be his mother, and added, 
"I regret deeply that I am not." Lest he think he was coming 
to be under an obligation to her she wrote him, "Whatever 
I receive from you will come as a favor and not as the pay 
ment of a debt. ... I want nothing from you except to keep 
you as my best friend till my last breath." She understood 



MADAME du DEFFAND 87 

him better probably than he understood himself. His char 
acter was full of contradictions, and she wrote and told 
him so* "You are sincere and good, you are variable but 
constant, you are hard but sensitive, yes, very sensitive, 
whatever you may say." 

In 1768 he wrote her an irritating letter denouncing her 
constant talk of friendship. She replied, "In God's name, 
my tutor, stop your declamations about friendship. Let us 
not torment each other, I by vaunting what you detest, and 
you by blaming what I esteem. Let us banish friendship. 
But let us not forget its place of exile, lest we have need of 
it later." 

This harsh decree was never carried to fulfillment. Though 
Deffand strove to modify her language, friendship breathed 
through every word she wrote. Once she reminded him that 
they had taken an oath never to indulge in friendship. 
"Heaven is witness that I do not love you, but nothing can 
prevent me from finding you most amiable." In spite of con 
stant denials both of them realized the depth of their attach 
ment. Scarcely a week passed by without their each com 
municating with the other. Meantime Walpole was working 
on a publication from the Strawberry Hill Press of a tragedy 
composed by Deffand's protector Renault. 

On August 15th, 1769, he came again to Paris, and gave 
this record of his reception: "My dear old woman is in bet 
ter health than when I left her. . . . She and I went to the 
boulevards last night after supper and drove about there till 
two in the morning. We are going to sup in the country this 



88 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

evening and are to go to-morrow night at eleven to the 
puppet-show." She had secured his lodgings for him, and 
he writes that she was his best and sincerest friend. "She 
never leaves anything undone which can give me satisfac 
tion." For the time being there was no rancor on his part 
and nothing but gentleness on hers. She tells a friend that 
Walpole is now satisfied with her and finds her less romantic. 
It was he that was now letting his pen run wild. In a letter 
to the duchesse de Choiseul he calls her "grandmama," excus 
ing himself on the ground that he was Deffand's husband. 

No sooner was she out of his sight than he began to bark 
again. He wrote her that she was vain, tyrannical, and indis 
creet, that she would not believe a man had any heart unless 
he followed her into her bedroom. She answered that she had 
been indiscreet, but was now chastened; that she was cer 
tainly neither vain nor tyrannical. The poor woman hardly 
dared to say anything for fear of offending him. "I don't 
dare to make reflections; I don't know whither they would 
lead me, and it is so easy to displease you." Sometimes after 
writing him a long letter she would throw it into the fire 
because she saw something in it that he might not like. Occa 
sionally she let it go though it contained words which he had 
forbidden. "I regard your friendship as the greatest good- 
fortune of my life. I would sacrifice everything else in the 
world to keep it." 

In 1771 he came to Paris again, but stayed only a couple 
of weeks. Deffand took him about a great deal, but her late 
parties tired him out. After. he left she was terribly dejected 



MADAME du DEFFAND 89 

and wrote him, "I am conscious of the approach of old age. 
Loss of memory, inability for long application. . . . Everyone 
I see here dries up my soul. I find no virtue, no , sincerity, 
no simplicity, in anyone. I find myself tied by fate to people 
who detest one another." 

In 1772 his fault-finding was so incessant that she had to 
beg him to be more gentle with her. "When I receive a letter 
from you filled with reproaches, suspicion, coldness, I am 
unhappy for a week." She wrote him that she had learned to 
be docile, "but I am like a child; I need to be caressed and 
given a bon-bon." It was all of no avail. When she returned 
from Chanteloup, she received a succession of bitter letters 
from him, which made her suspect that he wished to bring 
their intimacy to a close. In one of those letters he had said, 
"I don't want any slaves ... I don't love anyone but myself, 
and you don't love anyone but yourself; so we can never 
agree." She returned the letter to him. "Very well," she said, 
"we don't agree. So let us terminate a correspondence which 
has been nothing but a persecution to you." He appears to 
have accepted her decision. A couple of months later she 
regretted the breach and wrote him, "Let us make peace. 
Let us forget the past." This letter brought about a renewal 
of their correspondence, but from that date she gave up all 
hope of ever softening his heart. 

In truth, there was no hope. On March 30, 1773, he 
wrote, "I have no more to say, madam. I see the impossi 
bility of two natures so opposed as yours and mine coming 
to an agreement. I shall make.no further effort to render 



90 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

agreeable a relationship with which by tormenting me you 
have made me disgusted. Let it take its own course. ... If 
you do me the honor to write me letters requiring an answer, 
I will answer them. Otherwise you may dispense with my 
writing, for I do not see the necessity of a regular corre 
spondence when both of us are so little satisfied with it." 

On April 13th, 1773, he wrote, "After being thoroughly 
disgusted, one does not easily get back his good humor. I 
admit that I am always expecting new persecutions, and 
that robs our correspondence of all pleasure. ... I regard 
this end of our liaison as unavoidable and I become each 
day more ready to give it up/ 5 

In November, 1773, he wrote, "With all possible intelli 
gence and charm, you are unwilling to be contented with 
anything. You want to go chasing after a being that doesn't 
exist, and which your knowledge of the world ought to tell 
you doesn't exist, that is to say, a person who is solely and 
absolutely attached to you and who enjoys only one subject 
of conversation." 

In April, 1774, she had written him she was thinking of 
going into a convent to shake off her loneliness. He wrote 
back that as she couldn't read she would find no satisfaction 
in that life . . . what she needed was company, not solitude. 

In February, 1775, he became so ashamed of his treat 
ment of her that he asked his friend General Conway to try 
to persuade her to let him have his letters back. She assented 
without a murmur. "You will have enough," she says, "to 
light your fires for a long time if you add to yours all those 



MADAME du DEFFAND 91 

you have received from me. That would be only fair, but I 
leave it to your prudence. I shall not follow the example of 
distrust which you have shown me." He did not have the 
courtesy to take this hint. Of all his letters about eight 
hundred of them only nineteen escaped the flames. All of 
hers were preserved, and published after his death. 

Her idol was now shattered, and she felt at liberty to tell 
him frankly what he had meant to her. This was what she 
wrote: "It is true that I find you a very singular man. You 
have good reason to say that our characters differ. Yours is 
incomprehensible to me. I cannot understand what pleasure 
you can get from solitude, or what charm you find in all 
your inanimate objects, or how you can prefer the grand 
world to intimate society. I grant that society hardly satisfies, 
but one always hopes that it will. I believe I have already 
told you that to me friendship is the main thing. One cannot 
always find gold, but he can find nuggets that give hope. 
You are proof of that. I have not found in you what I desire, 
but I have found in you something better than what I have 
found elsewhere. Your indifference comes nearer to friend 
ship than all the assertions of friendship which I find about 
me." 

And again: "You are right in saying that age and experi 
ence have taught me nothing. Age has disfigured me; and 
experience has disgusted me with the world though it has 
not deprived me of the need of society. It is more necessary 
to me than ever. You cannot prevent me from regretting the 
loss of my poor friend Pont-de-Veyle. He listened to me and 



92 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

responded. He loved me more than he loved anyone else. 
He needed me and if all the world had abandoned me he 
would have remained faithful. He had a knowledge of the 
world which, though not profound, was sufficient. Too much 
penetration is sometimes an evil. There is danger in going 
too deep. We must sometimes skim along the surface." 

One cannot read this calm analysis of the difference 
between her feelings and those of Walpole without realizing 
that Deffand was endeavoring to temper justice with mercy. 
She knew that Walpole had traits which were utterly ignoble 
and prevented him even from approaching her ideals. In 
one of her celebrated pen-portraits she had said of him, "The 
fear of being feeble makes him hard. He is always on his 
guard against his feelings. He will sacrifice his own interests 
for his friends, but he refuses them little attentions. If he has a 
weakness, it is his fear of ridicule, which makes him sub 
servient to the opinion of fools." Even that estimate was all 
too charitable. He had been in the early years of their 
acquaintance almost her lover, calling her often "ma petite 
femme." He knew that in spite of her caustic criticisms she 
had an exceedingly gentle heart. He had a few modest friends 
and dependents in Paris whom he asked Deffand to aid, and 
their letters to him are filled with expressions of gratitude for 
her help. He was under great obligations to her for enter 
taining him and introducing him to her friends. When he 
published his edition of the memoires of the comte de Gram- 
mont he asked her to write the preface and sign it with her 
name. She wrote the preface but refused to allow him to use 



MADAME du DEFFAND 93 

her name, because it might make him appear ridiculous to 
his friends. "You know me well enough to know that I want 
no praise." But he dedicated the work to her in these words : 
"To madam . . . The editor dedicates this edition to you as 
a monument of his friendship, admiration, and respect for 
one whose graces, intelligence, and taste remind the present 
age of the age of Louis XIV." He knew that she was poor, 
and blind, and delicate, and that she was exceedingly affec 
tionate and emotional. He knew that her whole heart was 
wrapped up in him. Yet, when the glamour of their earlier 
intimacy had worn off, he treated her not only with coldness 
but with scorn. When a man's or a woman's sentiments have 
so changed that it is no longer possible without deceit to 
exhibit the ardor of an all-possessing love, it may be that it 
is honorable to call a halt, but in Walpole's case it was not 
so. He kept going to Paris to enjoy the hospitality of his dear 
old friend, as he constantly calls her, but in the intervals he 
heaped nothing but abuse upon her. Here was a man who 
boasted of his gentility, who surrounded himself at Straw 
berry Hill with the most artistic things that money could buy, 
who deemed himself a pattern of delicacy and refinement, 
and yet who permitted himself for fifteen years to beat down 
a sensitive and afflicted woman, and in writing to her to use 
language framed purposely to chill her affections and to 
wound a heart which he knew was filled with nothing but the 
tenderest feelings for him. He may have been irritable, he 
may have dreaded ridicule, but that is never reckoned an 
excuse for being brutal. 



94 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

Deffand had now reached the age of seventy-eight, and 
there was nothing more for which she cared to live. Still, she 
could not voluntarily close a correspondence which had meant 
to her so much. Both she and Walpole believed her life was 
near its end and in the summer of 1775 he came once more 
to Paris to pay her a final visit. His record of that visit shows 
that though her heart was broken she was determined not to 
weary him with her grief. She kept him busy every minute 
with suppers and trips into the country. Her suppers lasted 
till two or three in the morning, and at one of the suppers 
which she gave for him she had the due de Choiseul, the 
duchesse de Grammont, the prince and princesse de Beauvau, 
the princesse de Poix, the marechale de Luxembourg, the 
duchesse de Lauzun, the due de Gontaut, the due de Chabot, 
and the Italian ambassador Caracciole. In characterizing her 
at this period, Walpole wrote, "One needs the activity of a 
squirrel and the strength of Hercules to keep up with her." 

For five years more her marvellous vitality kept her going, 
and down almost to the end scarcely a week elapsed in which 
she and Walpole did not communicate with each other. But 
the tenor of her letters was now completely changed. She 
writes almost nothing about herself except in connection with 
personages about whom he had told her he would like to be 
informed. She lets him understand that her letters are to be 
little more than a gazette. 

On the twenty-second of August, 1780, she wrote him that 
she had become so feeble that she could no longer stand. "I 
think my end is approaching. I haven't strength enough to 



MADAME du DEFFAND 95 

be afraid, and, as there is no chance of my ever seeing you 
again, I do not care to live. . . . Amuse yourself, my friend, as 
well as you can. Don't trouble yourself about me. We have 
long been lost to each other. We could never have expected 
to see each other again. You will miss me, for it is always 
a pleasure to know that one is loved." 

On the twenty-third of September she was dead. 



MADAMg tfe STAEL 



IT is impossible to review the career of Napoleon Bonaparte 
and not be impressed by the extraordinary influence that he 
had in developing the character of the French people. The 
nation is still governed by the code of law which he promul 
gated. The military spirit which in his day permeated all 
classes of the people has never been swept away. The confi 
dence which the people have in themselves as a nation is as 
strong as when Napoleon was at the height of his power. Every 
Frenchman has inherited his indomitable will. An illustration 
of Napoleon's determination to have his way at all costs is 

97 



98 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

furnished by his treatment of madame de Stael. So long as 
he was on the throne he never permitted her to come to Paris. 
To a woman of her social prominence that prohibition caused 
a bitter pang, and had much to do with shaping her career. 



s, 



r HE is a sovereign from whose dominion the great men 
that surround her have no escape, for she chains them to her 
by a sort of magic." So spoke one of the scholars who fre 
quented madame de StaeFs princely chateau at Coppet, and 
his testimony as to her power of fascination is corroborated 
by many of those with whom she came in touch. Among her 
admirers were some of the most distinguished statesmen of 
her day, and all agree there was a charm about her person 
ality which no one could resist. Though she laid no claim 
to beauty, the warmth of her emotions and the vivacity of 
her conversation kept everyone enthralled. Words flowed 



MADAME de STAEL 99 

from her lips in a perfect torrent, and at the height of her 
fame she was known as the most brilliant talker in all 
Europe. 

There are those who think of madanie de Stael only as 
the friend of Benjamin Constant. That was but one phase in 
the varied life of this extraordinary woman. She was an 
active participant in the bloody scenes of the French Revo 
lution; she did more than anyone else to relieve the sufferings 
of the refugees; and she was a celebrated some say the most 
celebrated imaginative writer of her time. 

Fortune smiled upon her in her early years. She was the 
only child of Jacques Neeker, reputed to be the richest man 
in France. When she was six years old her father retired from 
business and loaned two million francs to the French gov 
ernment merely as an act of generosity to the country in 
which his fortune had been made. Four years later, the na 
tional finances having gone from bad to worse, he was asked 
by Louis XVI to formulate a plan of economic relief. As 
Necker was a native of Switzerland, and moreover a protes- 
tant, which made it impossible for him to become a citizen 
of France, many regarded him as an unfit person to be en 
trusted with the government's affairs; but his reputation as an 
able financier outweighed all other considerations and about 
a year after his services were first enlisted he was given the 
important office of controleur general. 

Shortly before this period Voltaire and Rousseau had been 
flooding society with doctrines about the people's rights. 
England had already become permeated with the new ideas 



100 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

and the salons of Paris were beginning to take them up. 
Necker, as a protestant, was not an ardent advocate of vested 
rights and no sooner had he entered upon his public duties 
than he urged the king to summon the etats generaux in order 
that they might adopt measures to lessen the burden of taxa 
tion. By this proposal he incurred the wrath of those in power 
and after five years of service was forced to resign. Seven 
years later, however, when the king decided to summon the 
etats generaux, he was recalled. 

Meantime his daughter, Anne-Louise-Germaine Necker, 
had grown into womanhood. Her father, though relegated to 
private life, was still regarded by many as the only person 
who could save the country from disaster, and his palatial 
home in Paris was frequented more and more by those who 
were out of touch with the reckless extravagance of the court. 
At Coppet on the borders of Lake Geneva her father owned 
a stately residence where he was in the habit of spending 
his summers and there she grew up, mingling with her father's 
distinguished guests and amazing them by her extraordinary 
vivacity and the charm and brilliancy of her conversation. 
Young as she was, there was always a ready audience when 
she was moved to speak, and few could hear her without 
being electrified by the force and originality of her ideas. 

Necker himself regarded her as a prodigy and made no 
effort to restrain the manifestation of her talent. So she grew 
into maturity with the conviction that she was destined to play 
a leading part in the intellectual and social doings of her 
time. 



MADAME de STAEL 101 

Along with her mental development came a violent awak 
ening of the heart. She was by nature a child of exuberant 
emotions. Her adoration of her father knew no bounds and 
as she ripened into womanhood the vehemence of her feelings 
tinctured all her thoughts. At twelve she had written a num 
ber of stories of which the basic theme was love. She went 
into ecstasies over the English novelists of whom her favorite 
was Richardson. Later, in looking back upon her childhood, 
she declared, "The elopement of Clarissa was the main inci 
dent of my youth." 

As the greatest heiress in Europe there were many suitors 
for her hand. One of them was Louis de Narbonne of whom 
she at one time wrote, "He was the first and only man I have 
ever loved." Another was William Pitt whom she met while 
he was on a vacation at Fontainebleau. She discouraged his 
attentions because, as she declared, she could never give up 
France. 

The final choice fell upon a man who was selected by her 
father for reasons that were wholly prudential. Necker's high 
repute as a financier, along with his universally acknowl 
edged integrity, had led to his being appointed to the most 
important administrative position in France, but his religious 
scruples had kept him from being duly recognized at court 
and this had always rankled in his breast. When Germaine 
was only fourteen she had met baron de Stael-Holstein, then 
Swedish charge d'affaires in Paris, and he had sought her 
hand. It did not look like a particularly brilliant alliance, 
and Necker was not inclined at first to give his assent. After 



102 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

a while, however,, it occurred to him that if de Stael, who was 
a protestant, could secure the appointment of Swedish ambas 
sador, Germaine by becoming his wife could retain her re 
ligion and yet be entitled to participate in all the functions 
of the court. As the baron was heavily in debt and wholly 
unable without assistance to maintain the position of ambas 
sador, the plan necessitated a liberal provision by Necker. 
Arrangements were finally agreed upon, and de Stael secured 
the post. Strangely enough, we have no record to show how 
far Germaine was active in furthering this plan. It may be 
that she was dazzled by the prospect of gaining an influential 
position in the social world of Paris, or it may be that she 
assented in order to comply with the wishes of a father whom 
she adored. At any rate the marriage was solemnized in 
1786, and the couple took up their residence at the Swedish 
embassy in the rue de Bac three years before Necker was 
recalled to the ministry of finance. 

There is abundant proof that Germaine entered into this 
marriage without any love in her heart. On the very day of 
taking her vows she wrote to her mother a letter filled with 
foreboding and without even mentioning the man to whom 
she was giving herself. Some of her friends foresaw that there 
could be nothing but discord between them. Madame de 
Boufflers wrote to the king of Sweden, "I wish I could think 
that de Stael will be happy, but I cannot believe it." She felt 
that Germaine lacked tact and knowledge of the world, and 
was too confident of her own judgment. In this madame de 
Boufflers was correct. Germaine was always assertive and at 



MADAME de STAEL 103 

this stage of her career the adulation that came to her be 
cause of her undeniable talent had so raised her self-esteem 
that she could not have been a suitable wife for anyone. And 
the breach was widened when she found that she was linked 
to a man greatly her inferior in intellectual gifts. 

In one respect, however, the marriage gave her intense 
satisfaction. As wife of the Swedish ambassador she became 
an important personage and was afforded opportunity to ex 
press herself with authority on public affairs. She was always 
more or less theatrical, and it tickled her vanity to pose as a 
leader in the diplomatic set. The statesmen summoned to her 
salon stood aghast at the flood of eloquence that poured from 
the lips of their youthful hostess, though it may well be 
doubted w r hether she did not take too seriously their apparent 
sympathy with her ideas. Her insatiable eagerness to play a 
role brought her sometimes into a position where she placed 
too high a value on the importance of her effort. Not satisfied 
with the modest contribution of her husband, she deluged the 
Swedish king with letters devoted mainly to rehearsing the 
incidents of her own progress in the social world. Of a dinner 
to which she was invited by Marie Antoinette she wrote, 'The 
king and queen both received me graciously; the queen told 
me she had long wished to make my acquaintance. The dinner 
was more splendid than had ever before been given for an 
ambassadress." It was certainly a demoralizing life. As she 
admits, utter recklessness pervaded everything. All the men 
about her, including her husband, were ruining themselves by 
gambling. Political offices were largely owned by the nobility 



104 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

and it was reported that four thousand of them were being 
bought and sold. The unsavory episode of the diamond neck 
lace, in which the queen and cardinal de Rohan were impli 
cated, had poisoned men's minds regarding those of high 
estate. Cagliostro and Mesmer, both of them arch-impostors, 
were deluding prominent members of society and creating a 
widespread belief in occult manifestations. 

After the recall of Necker his daughter transferred her 
salon to the house of her distinguished father, and this salon 
soon became a forum for the spread of liberal ideas. Rous 
seau's doctrines were on everybody's lips and Gennaine came 
to be known as the most vigorous champion of the people's 
rights. She may not have realized whither her admiration 
for Rousseau was leading her. It was not till some years later 
that Napoleon declared, 'Without Rousseau there would 
have been no revolution." 

It could hardly be expected that Germaine's enthusiasm 
for Rousseau's political notions would not in time lead her 
more or less into agreement with his views on other things. 
In proclaiming the rights of individuals Rousseau laid stress 
upon the propriety of taking nature as our guide and of 
giving free rein to our impulses. In some of his imaginative 
writings he made light of lapses from the path of strict 
morality, excusing them on the ground that they were ex 
pressions of one's individuality. In 1788, when Gennaine 
was only twenty, she published her first important book, and 
from passages in that book it is easy to detect that she was 
coming to look with complacency upon the relaxation of 



MADAME de STAEL 105 

personal restraint. She had not yet reached the view that 
passion justifies everything, but she was getting perilously 
near it. 

When Necker was recalled to power in 1788 he was given 
all the prerogatives of premier and became the idol of the 
people. The treasury was virtually empty and owing to a 
long succession of scanty crops many were perishing of 
hunger. Necker refused all salary and furnished a large sum 
from his own pocket to provide the people with food. To all 
intents and purposes he was the governing power and Ger- 
maine drank the cup of glory to the full. She was now con 
vinced that it lay with her to usher in the great epoch of lib 
erty which seemed to her at hand. One of her contemporaries 
wrote, "Among the remarkable and attractive members of 
the younger generation the baronne de Stael in particular 
exhibited such pungency and eloquence that very few could 
enter the lists against her. She not only surprised, she con 
vinced and carried away, her hearers/ 5 As events proved, she 
wholly misconceived the direction in which things were to 
travel. She looked for a millennium based on the old regime 
but in which the people would be voluntarily granted the 
rights to which they were entitled by the laws of nature. It 
was a fantastic picture. Still, the baronne was only twenty- 
two. 

In the next three years this brilliant, ambitious, headstrong 
young woman learned much about the ways of men. She 
learned that liberty of individual action could not be held 
within the narrow barriers which she had framed; that new 



106 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

rights cannot be granted without stimulating a desire for 
revenge because so long withheld; and that moderate counsel 
gets scant hearing when passions have been aroused. Her 
eyes were partially opened when her adored father, two 
months after the etats generaux began their sessions, was 
forced to hand his resignation to the king. 

Necker withdrew to Brussels where he was joined soon 
after by the baron and baronne de Stael. Then in a few days 
came the fall of the Bastille, followed on the next day by the 
emigration of the nobility including all of Germaine's dear 
est friends. The populace demanded the recall of Necker 
and he returned to Paris with Germaine. But it was too late. 
The assemblee nationale had taken control of everything, and 
the king's sole function was to sign such documents as the 
legislative body laid before him. Germaine could now see 
clearly enough to what her enthusiasm for democracy had 
led. The person on whom she chiefly pinned her faith was 
Talleyrand, now a member of the assemblee nationale. His 
serenity never left him even when surrounded by the angry 
mob. But his political sagacity stood in the way of his giving 
her much help. So long as the future was uncertain she 
could not prevail upon him to take a definite stand. 

Necker hung on for another year, doing his best to pacify 
the people, but in 1790 the radical element so increased in 
power that he saw there was no longer hope of keeping the 
monarchy alive. So he retired from public life and never 
returned to it again. His daughter's devotion to him con 
tinued after he was gone. In her salon she went on striving 



MADAME de STAEL 107 

to salvage the remnants of the old regime. With all her love 
of liberty she hated to part with the ceremonial and glitter 
of her palmy days. Gouverneur Morris., who visited her 
salon, wrote, "Her home is a kind of Temple of Apollo, 
where the men of wit and fashion gather twice a week for 
supper and once a week sometimes oftener for dinner." 
He found her clever, but she seemed to him conceited, and a 
coquette. 

Even the fall of Necker could not check the astonishing 
vitality of Germaine. Though scarce a day went by without 
some new attack on those she cherished, she never faltered 
in rushing to their defense. When others dared not receive 
them they always found asylum in her house. Say what you 
will about her vanity, no one has ever ventured the assertion 
that she was not brave. With voice and pen she denounced 
the brutality of those in power, and every effort to silence 
her only added to the vehemence of her tongue. By one of her 
contemporaries she was characterized as the Bacchante of 
the Revolution. 

Gossips were already busy with innuendoes about her pri 
vate life, and people were talking much of her intimacy with 
Talleyrand, Segur, and especially Narbonne. At one time 
there were rumors that she visited Narbonne's camp, clad 
in male attire. Narbonne was young, handsome, and immoral. 
He was believed by many to have been a natural son of 
Louis XV. He was a widower and though an officer in the 
army was an ardent supporter of the Revolution. He and 
Talleyrand, as well as Segur and La Fayette, were constantly 



108 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

at the Swedish embassy, hovering about Germaine. All were 
talking democracy, though royalists at heart. 

In 1791 de Stael went back to Sweden, unaccompanied by 
his wife. Later he returned to Paris, but she appears to have 
been indifferent both to his coming and to his going. The 
truth is, he had never been an important factor in her life. 
Who could, in fact, have had much influence upon a self- 
sufficient young woman like Germaine? De Stael was not al 
together a nonentity, but he was no match for his restless 
and overpowering wife. In a scandalous pamphlet published 
in Paris he was pictured as the deceived husband while 
Talleyrand and Narbonne played the leading parts. Possibly 
the picture was overdrawn, but Germaine had only herself 
to blame if such rumors did her wrong. Both Talleyrand and 
Narbonne were noted for their gallantries, and her undeni 
able intimacy with them could not but arouse suspicion. 

All the old families were now fleeing from France and 
the Swedish embassy was doing all it could to help them to 
escape. Germaine's bustling activity never had better oppor 
tunity to show its worth. Four thousand refugees were clus 
tered along the Rhine, ready to join the foreign armies when 
they began their attack on France. Narbonne was now minis 
ter of war and the queen wrote, "So Narbonne is minister 
at last. What joy and glory for madame de Stael, who can 
now dispose of armies!" Germaine sided with the man she 
loved in spite of the wishes of her friends who would have 
been glad to see the enemy enter Paris. Whatever her expecta 
tions were, they failed of realization, for Narbonne was soon 



MADAME de STAEL 109 

deprived of his command. Roland was now at the helm, and 
Germaine's influence was at an end. His wife had never liked 
Germaine whom she thought frivolous ever since she had 
detected her sending missives from the diplomatic gallery 
to deputies whom she knew. A coquette Germaine surely was, 
but when her country's interests were at stake she bravely 
advocated what she thought was right. She stood for the 
monarchy so long as it lasted. After it had fallen, she did 
not believe it ought to be restored. 

Meantime Necker was imploring her to seek refuge at 
Coppet, which she was loath to do. She was thrilled by the 
excitement of her life in Paris and hated what she termed 
"the infernal quietude" of Coppet. 

In July, 1792, the people were getting ready to break into 
the Tuileries and put the king and queen to death. At the 
risk of her own life Germaine devised a scheme to save them 
from the fury of the mob. She planned to buy an estate in 
Dieppe and have the royal couple carried to that city in 
disguise. They were then to be transported secretly to Eng 
land. The project failed because the king and queen refused 
to flee. 

Germaine was in Paris on August 10th, 1792, when the 
storm broke. The Tuileries were invaded and the king and 
queen were seized. Many of Germaine's friends were slaugh 
tered on that awful day. She tried to cross the Seine from 
her home in the rue de Bac and rescue any that had not 
been killed, but she found the bridges barred. After dark 
she succeeded in getting across, but all her friends who had 



110 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

been able to escape were already hiding in different corners 
of tie town. 

No one dared to make a prediction as to the future or 
guess where the next blow would fall. As the wife of an 
ambassador Germaine had hitherto felt secure, but the fall 
of the monarchy took away the protection afforded to am 
bassadors, and their former relations with the king made 
them a special object of hatred to the infuriated people. 
Most of the embassies, in fact, were closed and those that 
still functioned were under suspicion because it was believed 
they were harboring citizens who wanted to escape from 
France, Gerrnaine's husband was no longer an ambassador, 
but she had incurred the wrath of the revolutionary govern 
ment by her outspoken advocacy of the old regime, and her 
house was searched to see if she were sheltering any indi 
viduals whom the authorities wished to hold. As a matter 
of fact, Montmorency and Narbonne were with her when 
the officers arrived, and Narbonne was one of those whom 
the government wanted because of his former intimacy 
with the king. How she managed to appease the officers has 
never been divulged, but in some way Narbonne escaped arrest 
and a few days later she secured for him a passport which 
enabled him finally to make his way to England. 

Her lover saved, there was no further reason why Germaine 
should stay in Paris, and on September 2nd, just as the mas 
sacres began, she started for Switzerland, taking with her 
the abbe Montesquieu disguised as her servant. Her coach 
was stopped and she was taken before Robespierre, where 



MADAME de STAEL 111 

she insisted upon her right, as the wife of a former ambas 
sador, to depart. After several hours' delay she was allowed 
to go, and a few days later she arrived at Coppet. 

She found her mother dying and the house encumbered 
with refugees. The place was so depressing that she stayed 
only long enough to give birth to her second child; and in 
December, 1792, she went to Surrey, England, where Nar- 
bonne and some of her other friends were gathered. Her four 
months' stay in Surrey brought her into contact with many 
intellectual people, among them Frances Burney, the author 
of Evelina. Germaine was the nucleus of this little coterie, 
though her unconventional manner of living kept some of the 
choicest spirits away. One of the women, herself a clever 
writer, remarked that if she were a queen she would com 
mand madame de Stael to talk to her all day long. Another 
commented on her unceasing activity, her open-heartedness, 
and her loyalty to her friends. 

The winter over, she returned to Switzerland. Her hus 
band, who had been again in Paris, joined her at Coppet 
and remained there with her till the end of the year. Many 
of the friends who had sojourned with her in England fol 
lowed her to Switzerland and visited her from time to time. 
Much as she hated the repose of Coppet, it was much better 
that she should be there than amidst the carnage that was 
going on in Paris. It was the year of terror in which the 
guillotine had its daily victims and the king and queen were 
carried to the scaffold. Germaine had tried to avert this 
brutal act by publishing a defense of the queen a mag-' 



112 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

nanimous effort on the part of one to whom the queen had 
furnished many evidences of ill will. 

More successful was her work in saving her old friend 
Montmoreney. With the aid of false passports and by expend 
ing a large amount of money she enabled him to escape. 
At the same time she was busy at Coppet providing a resting- 
place for great numbers of refugees who were scurrying out 
of France. A distinguished man who met her about this time 
at Lausanne remarked that she would have been adorable 
had she not tried to be extraordinary. He thought her clever 
except when she tried to appear so. "Her head," he asserted, 
"has been ruined by philosophical doctrines, but her heart is 
unspoiled." 

In this year Gibbon, who had spent most of his life at 
Lausanne, and had been a lifelong admirer of her mother, 
went back to England, where he died in January, 1794. 
This was a bitter blow to Germaine, as was also the death 
of her mother which occurred a few months later. 

In 1794, with the fall of Robespierre, the reign of terror 
ended, and then began a new phase in the tempestuous life 
of Germaine. Narbonne had grown tired of her exuberance 
and had passed out of her life. There was no breach between 
them and their intimacy had probably grown as irksome 
to her as to him. Love of excitement and the imminence of 
danger had come to be all that kept them together; and now 
that peace was restored both realized that they had no longer 
much in common. Still, the passing of Narbonne left a void 
in her existence, and it was while she was in a state of moral 



MADAME de STAEL 113 

lassitude that she found the man who really, more than any 
other, touched the deep recesses of her heart. 

Benjamin Constant was twenty-seven and she was twenty- 
eight when they first met, on September 19th, 1794. He was 
a handsome, brilliant, and dissipated young man, without 
occupation, and was living on his father's estate in the neigh 
borhood of Lausanne. He had called upon her at Coppet, 
mainly out of curiosity to see whether his famous neighbor 
was as interesting and original as everybody said. She was 
not in when he called, but later in the day he encountered 
her carriage on the road and she offered to drive him back 
to Lausanne. There they supped together, breakfasted, dined, 
and supped together the next day, and were together again 
on the following morning. He was completely fascinated and 
a few days later wrote that he had seldom met a woman with 
so charming a combination of characteristics, brilliant, sym 
pathetic, kindly, affable. "To me she is the whole world . . . 
One who has met her can expect no greater happiness any 
where." Such language seems a little extravagant, though 
perhaps not altogether surprising from the pen of one who 
was sometimes spoken of as "Benjamin the Inconstant." 

Her feelings toward tiim were far more complicated. She 
was a creature of impulse, accustomed to do whatever came 
into her head without much thought of consequences, and it 
is more than likely that her intimacy with Constant owed its 
beginning to a revolt against the tedium of her life among 
the refugees at Coppet. But her liaison with Constant was 
much too lasting and too fruitful in the development of both 



114 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

their intellects to justify the assertion that it was chiefly 
based on passion. One of the most propelling forces in Ger- 
maine's make-up was insatiate ambition. For eight years she 
had striven to play a leading part in the political events of 
France and had not yet reached her goal. It is hard to believe 
that she could have had at this early stage any premonition 
of the fame that Constant was later to acquire as a writer 
and statesman, but her quick intuition may well have led her 
to think his brilliant qualities might be an effective instru 
ment in furthering her ambition. In spite of his profligate 
habits he was well educated and had a fertile and original 
mind. He was one of the few men she had ever met who could 
stand on her plane in conversation. And at the same time his 
admiration for her placed her in a position to dominate in 
all their intellectual encounters. That he had hitherto accom 
plished nothing only added to her zest. It is true that she once 
wrote, "All women crave a master. To make a woman really 
happy her love must look upwards." But she must have real 
ized that she was an exception to the rule; she was never 
happy with a man she could not govern. And there never was a 
moment when she did not have Constant under her control. 
In March, 1795, baron de Stael went to Paris, no longer 
an ambassador but with a commission from Sweden to collect 
the money his country had expended in the war between 
France and the Germanic powers. Two months later his wife 
again took up her abode in Paris, this time hoping to impress 
her personality upon the discordant elements which had 
emerged from the Revolution. Constant, it need scarce be said, 



MADAME de STAEL 115 

was with her. In the conflict of parties tinder the Directoire, 
Germaine aspired to lead in bringing about a reconciliation. 
She gathered about her a circle in which were found the most 
irreconcilable elements. Every ten days she gave a dinner 
at which all shades of opinion were represented, and on the 
intervening days she entertained separately the leaders of 
the various cliques. She was fast becoming the most popular 
woman in Paris. Her old friend Talleyrand was there again 
after his wanderings in America where he had set everybody 
by the ears; and so was Montmorency whom she had snatched 
from the guillotine. But along with these was Tallien, for 
merly a cook but now a member of the Directoire, and his 
eccentric wife who tried to restore the dress of ancient Greece 
among the gay women of the capital. It was a time when no 
one could afford to be fastidious, and Germaine was the last 
person to let her prejudices stand in the way of winning 
popular favor. Only a year before, she had published certain 
reflections on peace, in which she had hinted at a return of the 
monarchy; and now she published her reflections on the trial 
of the queen, in which she came out emphatically for a 
republic, and in which all her former arguments in favor 
of royalty were scattered to the winds. 

To charge this impetuous young creature with insincerity 
would not be altogether just. Her main fault was that in spite 
of all her intellectual vigor her actions were generally 
guided by her heart. It has often been said of her that she 
argued one thing and did another. Judging her by her writ 
ings you would say she was a strict observer of the con- 



116 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

ventionalities; yet she never seems to have had any qualms 
about ignoring convention in her private life. There was no 
correlation between her mental processes and her emotions. 
They belonged to two widely separated realms. "While one 
was in action the other was at rest. In that way we can account 
for some of her inconsistencies. She honestly believed in the 
doctrine of equality which was the foundation stone of the 
republic, but when it came to obliterating class distinction 
her sentiments rebelled. 

It was hardly to be expected that the people would under 
stand. Soon they began to whisper that her intimacy with 
aristocrats had a sinister design. Almost without a warning 
she was ordered by the authorities to leave Paris. Her hus 
band's effort in behalf of Sweden having come to naught, 
he returned to his native land and she retired to the suburbs 
of Paris. Her hope was that public sentiment would change, 
but instead of that it grew more bitter; and at last, realizing 
that the current had permanently set against her, she dropped 
her political aspirations and decided to employ her inex 
haustible vitality on other things. 

During all these years of political endeavor literary sub 
jects had not been wholly absent from her thoughts. Full as 
her life had been with social and philanthropic duties she 
had never let her pen lie idle, though she had used it chiefly 
to disseminate her views on questions of government and 
administration. Her influence on those in charge of public 
matters having come to an end, she was now afforded oppor 
tunity in the quietude of Coppet to give more time to literary 



MADAME de STAEL 117 

problems. The relish for works of fiction which had animated 
her youth had not been lessened by contact with the stern 
realities of life, and it was with feelings of intense enthusi 
asm that she fixed her thoughts once more upon the writers 
of romance. 

One might be sure that in her studies of imaginative writing 
she would avoid the beaten track. A person of her tempera 
ment could never be happy except in exploring new fields, 
and in treating the subject of fiction she found occasion to 
present an idea which, if not entirely original, was at least 
different from that in current use. Now, to prescribe a set 
of rules to which writers of fiction must conform would be 
as futile as to insist on a uniform style of dress. The purpose 
of fiction is to interest and amuse. What pleases one gener 
ation bores another. Still, there will always be writers with 
vision to discern the popular trend before it has become 
pronounced; and of such writers Gennaine certainly was 
one. She thought the fiction of her day inadequate and she set 
before herself the task of bringing about a change. As a 
preliminary step she offered to the public an Essai sur les 
fictions which brought into strong light some of those concep 
tions of imaginative writing which were destined later to make 
her famous. The fundamental idea was that fiction should be 
devoted first of all to the analysis of sentiment. She stressed 
the worthlessness of stories that were merely a record of inci 
dents in the lives of individuals that did not discuss the 
methods by which human feelings proceed to their final 
expression. In her view the finest specimen of fiction was 



118 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

La nouvelle Heloise. No novel, according to her, was worth 
reading which did not contain a lesson, which did not lead 
men to study their springs of action and the processes by 
which their sentiments were evolved. 

The Essay on fiction was followed by a book on the in 
fluence of passion a rather tiresome treatise along similar 
lines, important only because it shows that the author was 
formulating her thoughts as a preparation for imaginative 
work. 

Then came another visit to Paris. "I would sooner," she 
says, "go before the revolutionary tribunal, where the 
chances of life and death are equal, than never return again 
to France. 95 This time it was to relieve her husband who was 
overwhelmed with debts; and she brought him back to 
Coppet. 

In the spring of 1797 she was in Paris again. Constant 
was ever at her side though he was at the same time paying 
devotions to Julia Talma, wife of the famous tragedian. 
Constant, as well as Talleyrand, was now hand and glove 
with the Directoire, while Germaine was out of favor. But 
she never let this stand in the way of her friendship with 
either of them. Talleyrand, in fact, was in financial straits 
and she advanced him money to put him on his feet, with the 
result that he was soon given the portfolio of foreign affairs. 
Constant was talked of for secretary of foreign affairs; but 
that plan fell through. 

Napoleon had now become head of the army. His unin 
terrupted victories had made him the hero of the hour, and 



MADAME de STAEL 119 

he was recognized everywhere as the greatest military genius 
of the world. Germaine was second to no one in her enthusi 
asm for him. She was present when her friend Talleyrand 
introduced him to the Directoire and she left no stone 
unturned to impress her personality upon him. From the 
very first interview, how r ever, he resented her advances. She 
was not the type of woman that he admired. He could not 
endure a woman who was not submissive. He did not believe 
that women should meddle with politics. Her assertiveness 
and her habit of taking the leading part in conversation 
irritated and annoyed him. On one occasion when she was 
placed next to him at dinner she could hardly get him to open 
his mouth. It was not long after this interview that the Direc 
toire decided to overthrow the government of Switzerland 
and make that country one of the departments of France. 
This task was entrusted to Napoleon and his military prowess 
enabled him to carry out the design. Germaine bitterly 
opposed the project, which she regarded as the enslavement 
of a liberty-loving people. She begged Napoleon not to strike 
this cruel blow, but he turned a deaf ear to her vehement 
appeal. As a result of this incident Napoleon made up his 
mind that she was an impediment to his ambition, and he 
resolved to spare no effort to destroy her influence. 

About this time her husband permanently separated from 
her and she saw much more of Constant. Most of her friends 
disliked him; and some could not even tolerate his presence. 
He was now writing political pamphlets which everyone 
admitted were brilliant, but which many considered insin- 



120 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

cere. One of her friends said that Constant "does all he can 
to avoid being forgotten, but like a poisonous reptile he is 
always causing pain. This is inherent in his nature, which is 
impervious to softening influences." Even in her society he 
was far from being serene. Whatever at the outset may have 
been his feelings, it was not long before he chafed under 
the domination of this absorbing woman. His pride revolted 
against the submission of his individuality to another's will, 
and yet he was so enthralled by the overpowering person 
ality of Germaine that he could not give her up. Time and 
again he resolved to bring their intimacy to a close, but it 
always ended by his finding himself again at her feet. He 
never was happy with her, and at the same time he was 
miserable without her. 

She was now passing her life alternately at Paris and at 
Coppet. In 1798 she published her book, De la litterature. 
Critics found this book too philosophical and declared she 
twisted history to conform with her theories. But the book had 
real value because it was the first serious effort to make the 
French nation acquainted with the underlying characteristics 
of German and English literature. Chateaubriand, who was 
just coming into notice, thought this treatise filled with fanci 
ful ideas and wrote her to that effect. Such criticism would 
* 

have irritated many writers, but it was characteristic of her 
not easily to take offense. Two years later she met Chateau 
briand and formed a friendship with him which lasted till 
her death. Ultimately she and Chateaubriand found them 
selves working along the same lines. Together they did more 



MADAME de STAEL 121 

than any others to create the romantic school of literature in 
France. 

The year 1800 brought Germaine once more into conflict 
with Napoleon. Aided by Talleyrand he had been appointed 
first consul, and a constitution had been framed establishing 
a senate and two chambers, to one of which Constant had been 
elected. One evening Germaine was entertaining at ber bouse 
a number of men active in public life. Constant was among 
them; also Lucien Bonaparte, then minister of the interior. 
Constant was planning to speak the next day in opposition 
to certain proposals of the government, and he was urged by 
some of those present not to do so. Turning to Germaine, he 
asked ber advice. She told him he must act according to his 
own. convictions. The next day he made the speech, and 
before nightfall she received ten letters of regret from friends 
invited to dine with her that evening. One of these was from 
her old friend Talleyrand; and she never heard from Mm 
again. She still maintained her friendship with the family 
of the first consul, but Napoleon never forgave her for Con 
stant's speech despite ber vehement assertion that it was not 
inspired by her. The truth was, Napoleon could see nothing 
but evil in everything she did. In a letter to his brother he 
denounced Germaine for not helping her husband who was 
now financially ruined. 

Germaine now gave up ber handsome establishment in the 
rue de Bac and rented a modest house in the rue de Grenelle. 
She felt terribly depressed, but was somewhat consoled by an 
intimacy which she had formed with the lovely Jeanne 



122 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

Recamier an intimacy which ended only with Germaine's 
death. Germaine was not blind to the course that things were 
taking with Napoleon at the helm. He was rapidly becoming 
a dictator and all her hopes of liberty were crushed. It was 
clear enough he was waiting only for a favorable opportunity 
to drive her out of France. To avert this peril she refrained 
from giving further voice to her convictions but remained 
in Paris till the news was brought her that her husband was 
dying. She wrote at once that she would go to Sweden, to be 
at his side. That plan was changed. She persuaded him to go 
with her to Coppet, but he died suddenly on the way. 

Napoleon wreaked his revenge on Constant by removing 
him from the chamber; and for the next twelve years Con 
stant remained out of public life. Germaine and he were now 
inseparable. Neither of them could shake off the yoke, though 
both of them found it galling. In a letter to one of his friends 
Constant wrote, "Perhaps happiness is unattainable, as I 
cannot find it with the best and cleverest of women. How 
glad I should be to know that she is happy. My heart is too 
despondent, my soul is too fond of contradictions, my imag 
ination is too discolored, for me to be able to give her happi 
ness/* On her part she was so restless, her emotions were so 
exalted, that she was kept in constant misery because it 
seemed as if her ideal of happiness never could be reached. 

It was in this mood that she entered upon the composition 
of her first novel. Delphine, the heroine of the story, is a 
creature of impulse, who recognizes no criterion of conduct 
higher than her own conscience. She is generous, kindly, and 



MADAME de STAEL 123 

self-sacrificing, but the impelling force which lies at the bot 
tom of her nature and in the end outweighs every other 
impulse is a passionate and all-absorbing love. The author 
lets Delphine say, among other things, that she had never 
been loved so much as she had loved others, and that the 
strongest trait in her character was her capacity to suffer. 
One can see that Germaine was really describing her own 
emotions. 

This book was eagerly read by Germaine' s contemporaries. 
One critic who was not an admirer of the work admitted that 
the theaters were all empty because society preferred to stay 
at home and read Delphine. It was generally agreed that 
Germaine had produced an original story, though it was not 
at first realized that in attempting to make a careful analysis 
of emotions she had given birth to a new form of fiction 
which was soon to become exceedingly popular. To say that 
Delphine was a thoroughly artistic work would be going too 
far. Some of the characters do not seem altogether real. Here 
and there it is a little flamboyant, and the narrative is often 
interrupted by elaborate discussions on politics and phi 
losophy. But on the whole the story is picturesque and enter 
taining. 

Some critics objected to the writer's proneness to make 
light of marital relations. Undoubtedly when Germaine 
penned this novel her own experiences were surging through 
her brain. She puts into the mouth of Delphine's lover such 
arguments as came to her in excusing her own failure to 
adhere strictly to the marriage vows. But as the tale pro- 



124 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

gresses she makes both the guilty parties suffer. The woman 
expiates her transgression in a cloister while her paramour 
goes into the army and is executed as a prisoner of war. 

All this time Germaine was longing to go back to Paris, 
but Napoleon's brothers, whose friendship was as firm as 
ever, urged her not to go. As Napoleon grew in power he 
became more and more determined to brook no opposition 
and he made no secret of his unwillingness to tolerate her 
presence. She knew now that she could not lessen his ani 
mosity, but so deep was her affection for the capital that in 
the autumn of 1803 she ventured to rent a little house in the 
suburbs, hoping to stay there through the winter. She was 
hardly installed when it came to her ears that Napoleon 
had given orders that she must not remain in France. So she 
packed up her things and hurried to madame Recamier's 
country house, from which she wrote to Napoleon a pathetic 
letter begging him to allow her to stay at an estate her father 
owned on the outskirts of Paris. To this letter she received no 
answer, but a few days later officers arrived with a document 
signed by Napoleon forbidding her to come nearer than forty 
leagues from the capital. There was no escape from this 
peremptory order; and thus began a long period of sadness, 
the incidents of which she later set forth in her book, Dix ans 
d'exil. 

Her thoughts were centered now on literary work, and she 
had grown enthusiastic about the romantic school of fiction 
which was already making progress among the German 
people. She was in deep sympathy with their aspirations and 



MADAME de STAEL 125 

felt it would be a solace to her to live among them for a while 
and build up new ideals under the influence of their calmness 
and spirituality. So she started for Weimar, taking Constant 
with her. It was at this period that she wrote to a friend, "Ben 
jamin is very good to me. I pray you to love him for the 
service that he renders me, and above all for the protection 
from evil that he affords me." She was unstrung by the sever 
ity of her punishment and found much comfort in Constant's 
presence. 

She stayed all winter at Weimar, which was then the home 
of German culture. There she saw much of Goethe and 
Schiller. Her essays on literature had already given her an 
important place among the scholars of Germany, though the 
general feeling was that she lacked thoroughness in most of 
her work. Goethe had written that her book on fiction con 
tained gleams of light rather than actual daylight. He found 
her clever, but biased. Schiller had discovered many beauti 
ful thoughts in her writings, mingled with errors which he 
attributed to her sex. When she came into personal contact 
with these great men they could see that she was a most 
unusual person. She impressed them as a woman of extraor 
dinary intellectual vigor, and they were electrified by her 
intense vitality. "The only defect in her," said Schiller, "is 
her overpowering volubility." 

When Goethe wrote the story of his life he gave consider 
able space to her stay in Weimar. "Her presence had some 
thing charming about it both physically and mentally, and 
she did not appear to take it amiss if one appreciated both 



126 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

those qualities in her." She is known to have said, "I have 
never trusted a man who has not once been in love with me." 
She sometimes wearied Goethe, however, by her philosophi 
cal discussions. "She discussed conditions of thought and 
feeling that should be discussed only with God." And he 
remarked that she had no perception of what we call duty. 

Constant seems to have been accepted as a matter of course 
in Weimar. It was noticed that she treated him as a younger 
brother, and, though he constantly argued with her, he was 
always respectful. 

In the spring of 1804 she left Weimar and went to Berlin 
with letters of introduction from Joseph Bonaparte and was 
shown much attention by the Swedish ambassador. In that 
year Napoleon was crowned emperor and planned an attack 
on Prussia. It was natural that he should feel no friendship 
for a woman who was receiving so cordial a reception in 
Berlin. While there, she selected August Wilhelm von 
Schlegel, at Goethe's suggestion, as tutor for her boy. 

She was in Berlin when her father died. It was a terrific 
blow to a woman with her sensitive feelings. Ten years later 
she wrote, "I owe gratitude on this earth only to God and to 
my father. My whole life has been a struggle; he alone 
blessed it. All that I acquired by my own efforts will vanish. 
My personal identity rests on the fidelity I maintain for his 
memory. I have loved those I no longer love, respected those 
I no longer respect. The waves of life have washed every 
thing away except the great shadow on that mountain which 
points to the life that is to come." 



MADAME de STAEL 127 

Necker left her his whole fortune, amounting to three 
million francs beside the two million due from the French 
government. But money never meant anything to her except 
as a means to help others. During all the years of her exile 
she lived unostentatiously, though she gave lavishly to her 
friends. She once wrote to Schlegel to draw on her for 
anything he wanted and she would regard it merely as add 
ing to their bond of friendship. 

At the end of 1804 she went to Italy, fortified again 

with letters from Joseph Bonaparte. There she formed with 

Monti, the greatest contemporary Italian poet, an intimacy 

which was characteristic of her impulsive nature. She had 

known him only two weeks w r hen she wrote him that his power 

of fascination had aroused her affection. All the time she was 

in Italy she kept up a correspondence with him couched in 

tender terms. "Love me," she says, "to such a degree that 

it costs you something to mention my name." On leaving 

Italy in June, 1805, she wrote to Monti, "It would have been 

less painful to me to take a personal farewell of you than 

bid farewell when the one to whom it is addressed is no 

longer present. It is like addressing prayers to an empty 

grave, I came here for your sake and now you have left me. 

I forgive you, but unconsciously you have broken my heart." 

And from Coppet she wrote him, "I have read the beginning 

of my Italian novel to my friends. They think it better than 

anything I have hitherto written. I know why." Such language 

seems a little strong, but must not be taken too seriously; she 



128 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

once wrote to Goethe that she loved him and should admire 
him as long as she lived. 

The Italian novel to which she referred was Corinne, the 
book on which her fame chiefly rests. Although she called it 
her Italian novel, it was so only because Italy furnished the 
setting. The hero was a puritanical Scotchman and the 
heroine's father was an English lord. The psychology which 
it portrays is wholly foreign to Italy. It is the psychology of 
a talented, fascinating, enthusiastic, passionate daughter of 
France in short, the psychology of Germaine herself and 
by reason of that fact and that alone the book has great and 
enduring value. Few women, and certainly no man, could 
give us such a penetrating and in the main correct analysis 
of all-possessing love. Only the intensity of her own emotions 
enabled the authoress to do so. She was writing about the 
force that was the mainspring of all she did* The public 
accepted the book as her autobiography, and after its publi 
cation she was always called Corinne by those who knew her 
best. Some of the passages in this book give us the best plum 
met we have to fathom the depths of her many-sided nature. 

"Tou will perhaps want to know how much I should suffer 
were you to forsake me. I know not. Sometimes there is 
tumult in my soul; forces reign there more powerful than 
my reason." 

"Everything religious, even what is superstitious, has an 
indescribable fascination for me, so long as it is tolerant and 
free from enmity toward those who think differently. 
As soon as our thoughts and sentiments rise above ordinary 



MADAME de STAEL 129 

things we need divine aid. Superior minds cannot do with 



out it." 



"In the happiness that he gave her there was no enduring 
guaranty. Perhaps that explains the intensity of her passion." 

"Of what use are reproaches with regard to love? It would 
not be the tenderest and purest sentiment were it not the most 
spontaneous." 

"Passionate natures betray themselves. That which is with 
out bounds is without strength." 

"Whilst striving for fame I always hoped that I should 
thereby attain love. What other use has a woman for fame?" 

"Twice have I severed the bonds which fulfilled my heart's 
need and which I could not bring myself to make permanent." 

This novel was received enthusiastically by the people 
and with more than ordinary praise by critics. Even Goethe, 
who was hard to please, said kind things about it. Byron 
remarked, "I knew madame de Stael well better than she 
knows Italy but I little thought I should one day think 
with her thoughts in the country where she has laid the scene 
of her most attractive production. She is sometimes right, and 
often wrong, about Italy and England; but almost always 
true in delineating the heart, which is of but one nation of 
no country and yet of all." In attempting an accurate delinea 
tion of the heart she had blazed almost a new trail and was 
the forerunner of those romances which were so popular for 
the next fifty or sixty years. 

Corinne, if we may now so call her, began the preparation 
of this book immediately after her return from Italy, but it 



130 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

was not published till two years later, in 1807, for she was 
busy through all this period in making strenuous efforts to 
get her decree of banishment removed. As emperor. Napoleon 
was determined to crush all opposition to his ride. Every 
step she took was watched and it was only with the greatest 
difficulty that she could secure a passport to enter France. 
Forbidden as she was to approach the capital she hired a 
house in the country where she was visited by Montmorency 
and other friends, and on four or five occasions she eluded 
the police and slipped into the capital, though she took 
care never to appear upon the streets till after dark. As 
soon as Napoleon was apprized he put the police upon 
her track, and to avoid arrest she had to go back to CoppeL 

She was now the most celebrated woman in Europe, and 
her home became a center to which men of genius turned 
to gain new inspiration for literary work. She received them 
all with outstretched arms, and though her circle was often 
composed of somewhat incongruous elements her tact and 
gracious personality always smoothed things over. To keep 
her guests amused and perhaps to gratify her vanity she 
wrote some plays to be given in her salon. In these perform 
ances she as well as her guests took part. She was thus 
afforded opportunity to display her skill in depicting scenes 
of vehement emotion. 

It was during this period that her intimacy with Constant 
reached its close. For some years Constant had been grow 
ing restive and had many times considered throwing off the 
yoke. In the spring of 1807 she received a letter from 



MADAME de STAEL 131 

asking her to meet him at a little town near Geneva. Her 
heart filled with misgivings, she hurried to the appointed 
place only to be told that he was married. This was the end 
of a liaison which had lasted thirteen years, and which in 
spite of incessant wrangling neither of them had found it in 
their hearts to break. Twice he had asked her to legalize 
their intimacy but she had refused his offers, alleging that 
she could not bring herself to change her name. The truth 
was that her instinct told her she could never be happy as his 
wife. His unstable character she knew would drive her mad. 
Even while listening to his burning protestations she knew 
there was no likelihood of permanency in his love. His gal 
lantries were known to all the world, and though her ardent 
nature drew her to him with a power she could not resist 
there was always a consciousness that her ideal of happiness 
was far beyond his reach. It may be that she demanded 
more than it was in the power of any man to give. Of a cer 
tainty it required a stronger nature than Constant's to satisfy 
the exigencies of her love. He tells us in his journal how she 
was always lacerating his feelings even while he was under 
the spell of her allurements. "I have bought a little dog," he 
writes; "if he doesn't go mad Fm sure he will not bite me 
a thing I cannot say of some of my friends." Again and 
again he declares he loves her more than any other woman in 
the world and yet is worn out by her incessant pursuit of 
distractions. When he was not with her he found no one to 
make him happy. "All other people are nothing but trees 
and rocks." 



132 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

Sometimes when other women crossed his path he thought 
his love for Corinne was dead and he was irritated because 
she would not let him go. "I no longer love her; yet she will 
not be satisfied with mere friendship." 

One evening when she was particularly depressed she 
upbraided him because he would not comfort her, and he 
made bold to tell her that she must find solace in herself, 
that it was nothing but a love of coquetry which made her 
dread old age, and nothing but vanity which made her always 
crave admiration. This language was brutal, but not alto 
gether inexpressive of the truth. 

On another occasion she forced him to sit up all night and 
listen to a discussion which she was having with Schlegel. 
Of course he obeyed but his journal contains this entry: "I 
have never seen a better woman nor one with more grace 
and devotion. At the same time I have never seen a woman 
whose exigencies, without her being conscious of it, are more 
continuous, who absorbs more of the lives of those about 
her. . . . Every minute of their existence must be at her 
disposal. And when she gives way to fury she is like a hurri 
cane or an earthquake." 

A few days later he writes in desperation: "I have told her 
two hundred times that our love is over. I must detach my 
life from hers, either by remaining simply a friend or by 
disappearing from the world." 

And again: "Dined with Bonstetten, Schlegel, and Sis- 
mondi like schoolboys when the regent is away. Strange 
woman I Her domination over everyone about her is inex- 



MADAME de STAEL 133 

plicable, though real. If she knew how to govern herself she 
could govern the whole world." 

Another evening Minette, as he sometimes called her, was 
in bad humor because he wouldn't sit up. "It is clear I've 
got to marry, so as to go to bed early." 

Pretty soon he regrets his harshness. "How can I have the 
heart to cool the affection of a woman whom I love so deeply 
and rob her of her last friend just as she has lost her father?" 
She had tickled his vanity by praising one of his writings. 
"Still, she has such a tendency to emotion that her praise 
doesn't prove the beauty of the piece." 

He was greatly relieved when she decided to go to Italy, 
but she wearied him by her elaborate preparations. On the 
way she stopped at Lyon, where her friend Camille Jordan 
lived. Jordan was a brilliant writer, for whom Corinne enter 
tained more than an intellectual regard, and Constant in a 
fit of jealousy followed her to that city. She had asked Jor 
dan to go to Italy with her. His refusal to do so served to 
calm Constant and he left her and went to Paris. There he 
wrote her a batch of mournful letters so sad in fact that 
she begged him to let her know what she could do for him. 
"Alas," he wrote in his journal, "what I want is my liberty, 
and that she won't let me have." 

"I have received a very nice letter from madame de Stael. 
She is always in too much of a hurry to push herself ahead. 
Agitation and ambition. She leaves the wings of fortune no 
time to grow. She is always plucking out the feathers to 
make herself a plume. . . . Women are all egotists. They 



134 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

sacrifice everything to gratify a momentary fancy. And yet 
how hard it is to resist them!" 

"Madame de Stael is enchanted by her success in Rome. 
What a pity that she is so ambitious for these little successes 
that cost her so much effort!" 

"I am worn out with these incessant reproaches and my 
incessant justification. When a woman is in love, nothing but 
love will satisfy her." 

He had sworn' that he would never go back to Coppet, but 
after her return from Italy we find him there again. 

In the following year, 1806, after Corinne had taken a 
house at Auxerre, she wrote to him to come to her. He 
characterized her letter as a convulsion of the universe. 
"However, with all her faults she is more than all others to 
me," and he obeyed again, only to give rise to more recrimi 
nations. 

Then again to Coppet after her flight from Auxerre. 
"Madame de Stael has reconquered me." But it was only for 
a moment. "Her impetuosity and self-assertion are a torment 
and perpetual danger to me. I must break with her if pos 
sible. It is the only way for me to lead a tranquil life." 

The next year, 1807, she was attending to the publication 
of Corinne and he was in Paris trying to get the ban against 
her removed. But his thoughts were now taken up with the 
lady whom he was to marry. He tried to keep this a secret, 
but Corinne got wind of what was going on and pursued him, 
"foaming at the mouth and with a poniard in her hand." 
She threatened to kill herself if he abandoned her. So he 



MADAME de STAEL 135 

went back to Coppet and things continued in the same way 
for two or three years more until finally he shook off the 
chains and married the woman who would give him, as he 
thought, repose. 

Two years later, which years had passed without her see 
ing him, she wrote, "I never take out my writing materials 
without picking up your letters and looking at your hand 
writing on the envelopes. All I have suffered through that 
handwriting makes me shudder, and yet I w^ould fain see it 
again." Her wish was gratified. Before her death she was 
able to help him in the political career on which he was 
about to embark. But the intimacy which for thirteen years 
had held them together was cherished only as a memory of 
the past. 

To assuage her grief she now turned her thoughts upon 
the work on Germany which had long been taking shape in 
her brain. This book cost her more effort than any other of 
her writings. It did more even than Corinne to place her on 
a pedestal as an international celebrity. Her banishment 
from France had driven her into communion with the intel 
lectual leaders of Germany, and had brought her gradually 
to feel intense enthusiasm for the fundamentals of German 
thought. She loved the spontaneity of the people and the 
frank and natural way in which they voiced their feelings. 
German literature seemed to her to have its foundation in 
the realities of life. To set forth these conceptions was the 
main purpose of her book. Wlien it appeared some people 
criticized her for giving too much space to unimportant 



136 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

matters, for philosophizing about things which she did not 
wholly understand, and for adopting a style of argument 
which was too vehement and impassioned for so sedate a 
theme; but on the whole the verdict was that her book on 
Germany was bound to exert an important influence on the 
literature of her time. 

Though still forbidden to set her foot on the soil of France, 
she was determined to seek a publisher in Paris. It was a 
foolhardy thing to do. Apart from Napoleon's determination 
to keep her in the background, the book was sure to rouse 
his ire. There was nothing in it which he could take as a 
personal affront, but it was a candid effort to idealize the 
nation with which he was at war. Anyone but Corinne could 
have predicted that he was bound to take offense. With the 
same disregard of consequences which she showed in all her 
acts, she sent her manuscript to the publisher who had 
printed Corinne and went herself to a place just forty leagues 
from Paris to superintend the revision of the proofs; but 
before the book was issued the chief of police seized all the 
copies that had been printed and again she was ordered out 
of France. This was in 1810, and the book was not published 
in Paris till after the emperor's abdication. 

On her return to Coppet she was watched more closely 
than ever. She was virtually a prisoner, forbidden to travel 
more than ten miles from her home. What distressed her 
most was that she was denied the society of her friends. Some 
avoided her as they would the pest, fearing to incur the 
emperor's wrath if they had anything to do with her. A few 



MADAME de STAEL 137 

were actually exiled from France because they had the hardi 
hood to visit her at Coppet. A deep gulf stood between her 
and all she held most dear. Even a harmless book review 
which she wrote for one of the French journals was returned 
to her by the publisher, as no one dared to print anything 
from her pen. She was in constant anxiety lest her three chil 
dren be placed under the ban, and at one time actually made 
arrangements to migrate to the United States in order to 
escape persecution. 

The emperor's marriage with Marie Louise of Austria 
was the signal for many acts of clemency and Corinne asked 
the Austrian ambassador to use this as a pretext for termi 
nating her exile, but Napoleon was adamant. "I will not have 
her in Paris," he replied. Whereupon she wrote him a 
pathetic and most humble letter in which she said that the 
eight years of exile which she had already endured had 
taught her humility. She begged him to allow her to return 
that she might have her children brought up in Paris. To this 
appeal the emperor made no reply. 

Then came what was perhaps the most curious episode in 
the life of this emotional woman. There was living in Geneva 
a young man named Rocca, who had been seriously wounded 
while fighting in the French army. When still an invalid he 
had become infatuated by the amazing vitality of Corinne 
who was more than twenty years his senior, and she had 
invited Mm to come to Coppet, at that period almost de 
serted. The friends on whom she had always counted were 
there no more. Unutterably lonely, she felt that she was 



138 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

beaten down by conditions in tbe face of which she had no 
power to rise. All the fame and glory which she had enjoyed 
seemed to have brought her little happiness and to have 
ended in despair. She had reached the autumn of life and in 
looking back she could see that all the romances of her exist 
ence had brought no satisfaction. She had charmed and 
fascinated people by the brilliancy of her thoughts and the 
fluency of her conversation, but she had to confess that she 
had never inspired what above all else she craved a sin 
cere, unshakeable love. When Rocca came into her life he 
seemed to embody the image of everything she had dreamed. 
His adoration fanned into life again her ambition to do great 
things. His frailty, his eagerness to shelter himself under 
her protecting wings, filled her with pride. His youth, his 
deference to her ever-changing wishes, his gentleness and 
unobtrusiveness touched her heart and re-awakened in her 
the dormant passion of her youth. 

Corinne's intimacy with Rocca brought her nearer to the 
fulfillment of her desires than any other of her loves. All her 
other romances had been wrecked by the clashing of dis 
cordant ambitions. Narbonne and Constant, and all who had 
hitherto succumbed to the fascination of this singular woman, 
had been men of too strong individuality to yield themselves 
completely to her power. But Rocca's individuality was swal 
lowed up in hers. She took him into her arms as a mother 
takes her child. She watched over him with a tenderness 
which her tempestuous nature had not before revealed, and 



MADAME de STAEL 139 

to the end of her life she remained steadfast in her devotion 
to this fragile youth. 

Meantime the emperor was tightening his grip on Ger 
many, and Corinne began to fear his soldiers would descend 
on Coppet. She determined to flee before it was too late. As 
the widow of de Stael it seemed to her she would be safe 
in Sweden, but, since Napoleon's troops were scattered all 
over Germany, the only method of reaching her destination 
was through Russia. On the 23rd of May, 1811, in company 
with Rocca, she started on the perilous journey, leaving in 
Coppet their only child who had been born three months 
before. Her way led through Austria which held aloof while 
Napoleon was planning his attack on Moscow, and in Vienna 
she received a passport allowing her to enter Russia. The 
strain of the last few years had worked havoc with Corinne's 
constitution and a journey by carriage for fifteen hundred 
miles over ill constructed roads was no light task; but she 
was not the one to turn back, and in the dreadful winter of 
1812, in which Napoleon's shattered army retreated from 
Moscow, she made her way to Stockholm. In the following 
June, after one of her sons had been killed in a duel, she for 
sook Stockholm and took up her abode in London. There she 
published the first edition of her book on Germany. It was 
received with great enthusiasm and brought her into close 
touch with all the literary people of the day. Byron, who had 
known her in happier days, found her sadly changed. "Her 
works are my delight," he says, "and so is she herself for 



140 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

half an hour." She tired him with her long speeches and he 
charged her with being vain; but "who," he adds, "had an ex 
cuse for vanity if she had not?" Mary Berry, the writer, re 
marked that if one wanted to see the crown ministers he must 
go to madame de StaePs house, for they were always there. 
Wilberforce after dining with her one evening declared, "The 
whole scene was intoxicating even to me. The fever arising 
from it is not yet gone." 

In spite of all this adulation she was far from happy. 
Rocca, though always devoted, lacked the intellectual quali 
ties which she needed for real companionship and his con 
stant presence kept closed some doors which she would have 
been glad to enter. She could not wholly banish Constant 
from her thoughts, and one day on receiving a letter from 
him, she replied, "To see you once again would be to revive 
my spirit and give me hope which with all else seems to be 
gone forever. If you do not come here, I shall go to the conti 
nent . . . Benjamin, you have destroyed my life. For ten years 
no day has gone by without my suffering on your account. 
How I have loved you! But let that pass it is too cruel. Yet I 
shall never be able to forgive you, for I shall never cease to 
suffer." 

The fall of Napoleon in 1814 came to her as a shock. 
Deeply as she resented his persecution of her, she grieved 
for the disaster that had overwhelmed France. Constant, who 
was now in the thick of politics, sent her a pamphlet which 
called forth a reply. "How much," she wrote, "I would wish 
to talk over this, but where is the subject I should not wish 



MADAME de STAEL 141 

to discuss with you? Intellectually at least we shall always 
sympathize with each other ... I shall carefully and zeal 
ously guard your interests. Write to me. I have not ceased 
and shall not cease writing to you. You have brought me 
much harm, and the longer I live here the more clearly I see 
that your character is unworthy. But I respect your talent and 
the sentiment which filled my heart for so many years. I shall 
always remain your friend." 

As soon as Napoleon was taken to Elba, Corinne returned 
to Paris and her house became once more a gathering-place 
of celebrated men. Among the notables whom she received 
were the emperor of Austria, the ambassadors of all the for 
eign powers, La Fayette, and her old friend Montmorency. 
Louis XVIII had been raised to the throne, but there was 
bitter strife among the publicists as to the nature of his rights. 
Corinne took the side of those who claimed that France was 
now a constitutional monarchy, and by so doing clashed with 
Constant who had become the leading champion of the doc 
trine of hereditary succession. Corinne, though in shattered 
health, could not keep out of the fray. The Duke of Welling 
ton, who saw her at this time, said he wished he could keep 
her out of politics. "I have told her more than once," he 
wrote, "that I hated to talk politics, and she replied that 
politics w T as her life. She and I were great friends." This was 
but one more illustration of her power to fascinate. Through 
all her life she had statesmen and scholars at her feet. Many 
of them abhorred her politics and grew restive under the 
constant exhibition of her egotism, but rare indeed was the 



142 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

man who did not sooner or later succumb to the charm of 
her warm and sympathetic nature. 

The genuineness of her emotions is manifest in her deep 
affection for madame Recamier, the famous beauty who 
broke so many hearts among the potentates of Europe. Their 
acquaintance began in a business transaction, and madame 
Recamier has left us a record of her first impression of her 

celebrated friend. "I was struck by the beauty of her eyes 

She fixed her great eyes upon me, with a curiosity mingled 
with kindliness. . . . From that day, I could think of nothing 
but her, so deep an impression had been made on me by her 
ardent and forceful nature." Madame Recamier was then 
only twenty-one, but her dazzling beauty and her position 
as the wife of a rich banker had already brought her to the 
front of social life in Paris. So she and Corinne met fre 
quently, and their friendship was cemented by the intimacy 
which they both enjoyed with Montmorency. Ever since 
Corinne had rescued him from the guillotine he had remained 
her stanchest friend, and his unselfish attachment to these 
two women w r as always a bond which held them close to 
gether. When Napoleon came into power he was attracted, 
as was everybody else, by madame Recamier*s marvellous 
beauty, but he grew irritated with her as soon as he found 
she did not respond to his advances. All his ministers were 
paying court to madame Recamier and on one occasion he 
asked them petulantly if they held their state council at her 
house. His enmity toward madame Recamier did much to ce 
ment her friendship with Corinne, When Corinne was exiled, 



MADAME de STAEL 143 

madame Recamier's first thought was to shelter her friend, 
and it was to her house that Corinne fled as soon as the order 
of exile was signed. In commenting on that catastrophe 
madame Recamier used words which show how deep their 
affection for each other had become. "I admire madame de 
Stael passionately. This arbitrary and cruel act which has 
separated her from me is despotism in its most odious form. 
A man who could banish such a woman and be the cause of 
such unhappiness can be, to my way of thinking, naught but 
a pitiless despot." 

Two years later madame Recamier told Napoleon's min 
ister of police that she had lost all respect for his master on 
account of the persecution of Corinne. 

Not long after, it came to be Corinne's turn to ofier conso 
lation to her beautiful young friend. Recamier's bank failed, 
and his wife was left with nothing except a small income from 
her mother. "Oh! my dear Juliette," wrote Corinne, "what a 
grief I feel at this awful news! How I curse this exile which 
prevents my being near you and pressing you to my heart! 
. . . May I not cherish the dream of seeing you here this win 
ter? Come for three months to my narrow circle where you will 
be passionately cared for. If not that, then I shall go to my 
forty leagues from Paris to see you, to throw my arms around 
you and tell you that I hold you dearer than any other woman 
I have ever known. . . . Dear Juliette, let our friendship grow 
stronger than ever, let it not be merely acts of kindness on your 
part, let it be an unbroken correspondence, a need of confid 
ing our thoughts to each other, a life together." 



144 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

Juliette, as Corinne called her, could not accept Corinne's 
invitation at once but in the summer of 1807 she went to 
Coppet and remained three months. After she had gone, 
Corinne went to Vienna, where she spent the winter of 1808. 
On her return she set to work vigorously on her book on 
Germany and for two years scarcely ever left Coppet, but 
Juliette frequently visited her there and took part in the plays 
which her talented hostess had written. 

In the summer of 1810 Corinne took a house near Blois 
for three months. "My dear Juliette," she wrote, "my heart 
beats with pleasure at the thought of seeing you. Arrange to 
give me all the time you can." Juliette came and for several 
weeks Corinne had all her dearest friends about her. Mont- 
morency and Constant were, of course, among them. To amuse 
her guests she originated what she called her petite poste. 
They all sat around a table and wrote letters to one another. 
One of Corinne's letters has been preserved. It reads thus: 
"Dear Juliette, your visit is drawing to a close. I can con 
ceive no country and no inner life without you. I realize 
there are some emotions which seem to be necessary for me, 
but I know also that everything will fall away when you 
depart. You are the sweet and tranquil center of our life 
here and it is by you alone that we are all held together. 
God grant that this summer may return." 

Juliette had scarcely gone when Corinne learned that her 
book had been seized by the authorities, and she was given 
peremptory orders to depart from France at once. Corinne 
wrote to Juliette, "Dear friend, I am overwhelmed with 



MADAME de STASL 145 

grief . . . you, dear angel, who have loved me for my mis 
fortune, who have never known me but in adversity, and who 
have always been so sweet to me ? you also I must lose." 

Juliette went to her friend queen Hortense and begged her 
to intercede with Napoleon, and she also made a personal 
appeal to the censor, but without result. 

When Corinne imparted to her friend that she was plan 
ning to escape from Coppet, Juliette could not bear to let her 
go without a final visit. Montmorency had just been exiled 
for visiting Corinne, and Juliette was cautioned lest a like 
fate befall her. She paid no heed beyond letting it be pub 
licly known that she was going to Aix. She remained with 
Corinne only thirty-six hours, and on her way back to Paris 
learned that she, too, had been exiled. She did not see Paris 
again until Napoleon had left the throne. 

Corinne's first duty when she returned to Paris in the 
spring of 1814 was to send this message to Juliette: "I am 
ashamed to be in Paris without you, dear angel of my life. 
I must know your plans. May I see you at Coppet where I 
am going to spend four months?" This never came about, but 
a few days later Juliette after three years of absence returned 
to Paris, and the bonds of friendship between these two 
devoted w r omen became firmer than ever. Napoleon's impla 
cable hostility had blighted both their lives and together they 
now sought to efface the bitter memories of their persecution. 
As victims of the fallen despot they were cajoled and flat 
tered as they had never been before. 

In the midst of this rejoicing Corinne had to endure one 



146 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

more cruel blow. Constant, ever ready for some new enchant 
ment, developed a mad infatuation for Corinne's dearest 
friend. As Juliette never gave the slightest indication of 
reciprocating his love, this brutal disregard of Corinne's 
feelings is hardly worthy of comment, except so far as it 
furnishes proof of Corinne's loyalty to the man she once had 
loved. Humiliating as the position was in which he placed 
her, she uttered no reproach. Whatever suffering he might 
cause her she had steeled her heart to bear. 

The fact was, her troubled life was drawing to a close. 
Her thoughts were turning toward the past, and she was busy 
with what was to be her final work, the Considerations sur la 
revolution frangaise. That work shows on every page that she 
was coming to take a calmer view of life. She realized that 
the liberty which she dreamed about was hardly attainable 
under either an emperor or a king. The evils that had come 
on France were not due wholly to those in power. The people 
were largely to blame. "They do not know what liberty 
means." Such thoughts as these were not in harmony with 
the sentiments of her friends, and she absented herself more 
and more from Paris. Juliette begged her to come back from 
Coppet, and she replied, "No, indeed, I could not be thank 
ful for the liberty guaranteed. Being of the opinion that 
nations are born free, I should let fall words that are not 
in fashion and should only make enemies for myself." 

On the pretext of nursing Rocca, she spent the winter of 
1816 in Italy, and while there she gave her daughter in mar- 



MADAME de STAEL 147 

riage to the due de Broglie, a scion of one of the most aristo 
cratic families in France. Constant had now thoroughly 
passed out of her life and he learned of this event only in a 
roundabout way. He wrote to Juliette that he knew Broglie 
but did not feel it incumbent on him to congratulate Corinne. 
"I do not think she has need of an excessive tenderness. By 
the overflow of her own feelings and the unavoidable reaction 
in her own nature, she has brought up sensible children." 

The sojourn in Italy had done Rocca good. In a letter to 
Juliette, Corinne wrote what a comfort he was to her. "Such 
patience, such thorough appreciation of and thankfulness 
for my care, have made him the most perfect friend that I 
can imagine/ 9 

Winter over, she returned to Coppet and Juliette paid her 
a visit, as did also Lord Byron. In writing of her at this time 
Byron remarked, "She is the best creature in the world." 

This was very nearly the end. Once more she came to 
Paris, and tried to renew her active association with her 
friends. But it was no use. At a large dinner party at a 
friend's house she fainted and had to be carried home. This 
was her last appearance in public. In the few months that 
remained to her of life, the asperity which had often annoyed 
her friends passed entirely away, though she did not seem 
to realize the change that had come over her. She said to 
Chateaubriand who came to see her, "In joy or surrow I 
have always been the same. I have loved God, my father, and 
liberty." On the evening before her death the faithful Mont- 



148 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

morency called, and she asked him to see if Rocca had 
taken his medicine. 

The end came on the fourteenth of July, 1817. Her remains 
were carried to Coppet, and it is gratifying to note that Con 
stant was one of those who accompanied her hody to the grave. 



DELPHINg GAY 



IN THE early part of the nineteenth century one could lay 
no claim to special distinction merely on the ground that he 
was a writer. In one way or another almost every man of 
political or social importance dabbled with the pen. Some of 
the leading statesmen, like Lamartine and Victor Hugo, were 
poets or novelists; others, like Thiers, became distinguished 
writers of history. Chateaubriand, nominally a diplomatist, 
owes his reputation chiefly to his treatises on philosophical 
subjects. Never before had France produced so brilliant and 
versatile a galaxy of authors. And the most notable fact about 

149 



150 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

this profusion of literary endeavor was that it covered almost 
every field of intellectual activity. It was a period of mental 
and material expansion, fairly illustrated in the personality 
of Delphine Gay* 



w 

f THEI 



r HEN Lamartine, the poet-statesman, was visiting 
the ruins of Terni in 1825, he caught sight of a young 
woman who appealed to his romantic spirit as the most 
heauteous creature he had ever seen, Delphine Gay, the 
ohject of his adoration, was then just twenty-one, and she had 
already become a center of admiration in Paris not only 
because of her statuesque beauty but on account of her talent 
as a composer of delicate and graceful verse. Her mother, 
Sophie Gay, was a novelist of some repute whose salon was 
frequented by all the literary men. This may account, in part, 




DELPHIXE GAY 



DELPHINE GAY 151 

for the enthusiasm with which the daughter's youthful efiu- 
sions were acclaimed; but, whatever the reason, it was the 
general opinion that Delphine was destined to become one 
of the leading poetesses of the period. 

As the years went on, she did not from a literary point 
of view justify altogether the prophesies of her early admir 
ers. But her personal charm, and the serenity and joyousness 
of her nature, came in time to draw T into her sphere of influ 
ence all the intellectual geniuses of her day. Lamartine, Vic 
tor Hugo, Chateaubriand, Eugene Sue, Gautier, Balzac, 
Alfred de Musset, and George Sand owed much of their 
inspiration to the hours they spent with this fascinating and 
gifted woman who presided over "the house with the marble 
columns" in the rue de Chaillot in Paris. 

Whether under favoring circumstances her skill in versi 
fication might have led her ultimately to take high rank 
among the poets cannot now be proved. Some of her best 
verses were written after she matured. But on marrying 
fimile de Girardin her thoughts were diverted into less pre 
tentious channels, and for about twelve years she employed 
her talent chiefly in writing prose. Girardin was the founder 
and editor of La Presse, a journal which became in time the 
leader of public opinion, and from 1836 till the fall of 
Louis-Philippe there appeared at intervals in that journal, 
under the caption of the Courrier de Paris, a series of articles 
on social and political problems bearing the signature of 
vicomte Charles de Launay. Only those who were in close 
touch with the newspaper's administration were aware that 



152 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

Charles de Launay was the beautiful and accomplished wife 
of Emile de Girardiru 

It is in these articles, later published under the title of 
Lettres parisiennes, that we are enabled best to get at Del- 
phine's mental processes and to understand why she was so 
genuinely worshipped by all the distinguished writers of her 
time. Viewed as literary compositions these articles cer 
tainly do not have exceptional merit. Perhaps that would be 
more than we should have a right to expect in work so largely 
dependent on the exigencies of the press. It must be borne 
in mind, moreover, that as a contributor to a popular journal 
the writer was bound to cater to many tastes and it would 
not do for her to follow definite lines of thought so fully as 
to bring her arguments always to a cogent end. There was 
one thing, however, that she was always permitted, if not 
required, to do, namely, to amuse; and in that field she was 
entirely at her ease. Her leading characteristic was a love of 
mirth. Lamartine, who in spite of his affection for her was 
always a little petulant, once told her he wished she would 
try to restrain her incessant laughter. It may be that this 
trait hindered her progress in writing poetry, but unques 
tionably her inexhaustible humor and her keen enjoyment 
of the amusing experiences of those about her were respon 
sible in large measure for the popularity of her Lettres 
parisiennes. 

She never tired of making merry over the foibles of 
humanity and it gave her delight to find a basis for men's 



DELPHINE GAY 153 

folly in fundamental traits. She loved to divide men into 
classes and to show that each class had its special charac 
teristics. There were the dog-men, kind, brave, faithful, 
honest, hut credulous and improvident. Then there were the 
cat-men, egotistical, avaricious, jealous, perfidious, but 
adroit, intelligent, and capable. Examples of dog-men were 
Socrates, Regulus, Washington. Among cat-men she enu 
merated Ulysses, Hannibal, Pericles, Richelieu. Sometimes it 
was a little difficult to determine to which class a man really 
belonged. By association with the other class one's traits 
were more or less modified, and that was always a source 
of danger because the acquired traits were never thoroughly 
sincere. Napoleon, a cat-man by nature, dreamed of ven 
geance, but he discarded his dream of vengeance only to 
dream of glory. 

In like vein is her letter on taking up the carpets, the most 
dreaded event of the whole year. "The air is full of dust. A 
horrible pounding has been going on all the morning, and 
now a heavy rumbling sound pervades the house. The atmos 
phere is thick with the smell of soap-suds. You sit in a room 
as bare as a desert. Before your eyes a number of fat, half- 
clad workmen are carrying off all your precious relics . . . 
Not a room in the whole apartment is habitable. One room 
has been entirely stripped, and in another your furniture 
is packed up to the ceiling. Chairs are piled up on the tables, 
and the sofa cushions are in heaps upon the chairs. You try 
to open your desk which is behind a mountain of furniture, 



154 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

and you find the cover held down by a corner of the piano. 
Happy is the man who can slip off to the country when they 
come to take up his carpets." 

Then we have a description of the "fictitious absence" 
which was common in Paris and not entirely unknown in 
other capitals. When summer comes, fashion decrees that 
you must get out of Paris. Some go to their country estates, 
some to the watering places, some take long trips. People of 
self-respect cannot remain in the city, lest they be thought 
grocers or journalists, or ministers or porters. But to go to 
your country place you must have a country place; to travel 
you must have money in your pocket. So some people cannot 
travel. But they can always bid their friends "good-by." You 
can stay in Paris if you don't let people see you. It's easy 
enough. You pull down the blinds, and instruct the porter 
to say you are out of town. You shut yourself up with your 
wife in a room at the back of the court. You stay there three 
months while you are travelling. Each night at twelve you 
offer your arm to your travelling-companion and saunter 
through the streets. At the end of the summer you reappear 
in the capital, a little fatigued by your journey, but en 
chanted, rich in souvenirs and not at all sunburned. You 
may not have had much amusement, but you have kept your 
reputation as a person of fashion, and you can remark to 
those whose business has chained them here, "I don't see 
how anyone can spend the summer in Paris." 

And so she runs on with amusing descriptions of public 
ceremonies and domestic complications, interspersed with 



DELPHINE GAY 155 

extremely learned dissertations on dresses, and women's hats 
and handkerchiefs, on the pictures in the Salon, on the 
famous balls, the open-air festivities, with criticisms of the 
latest books and theatrical performances with everything, 
in fact, that goes to make up the daily life of a bustling 
people struggling to outstrip one another in the race for 
social recognition. 

As a journalist she had to keep abreast of the times and 
record all the events which interested her readers. But by 
reading between the lines, you can often detect that her 
thought is deeper than her expression. The French, she says, 
are accused of being flippant. That is not so, she declares. 
They are light of heart, but not of character. "They can die 
with a smile on their lips and that is proof of a sublime 
philosophy." 

In spite of her eagerness to avoid a jar, she did occasion 
ally venture to castigate some of the practices that were 
prevalent among her readers. Drawing a lesson probably 
from her own bringing-up, she w T as utterly opposed to the 
manner in which most children were educated. Education, 
she says, has now become so systematized that a child can 
learn to read in fifteen days and to count in three weeks. 
In her view such a system took no account of the main pur 
pose in training children, namely, to make them think. No 
permanent benefit can be obtained except through effort. 
"One soon forgets what he has learned, but he never forgets 
what he has found out." That w r as a sound doctrine which 
could hardly give offense. 



156 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

A little more risky was her reply to someone who said 
men's clubs were ruining society. No, she says, the cluhs have 
merely absorbed those who were uncomfortable in society 
in other words, the bores. That Delphine should have dared to 
publish so sweeping an indictment of her fellow-citizens shows 
how strong a hold she had on their affections. She had almost 
gained the prerogative of a jester whose buffoonery can not 
offend. No one was exempt, or expected to be exempt, from 
her genial pleasantry. She tells her readers she prefers the 
homoeopathic to the allopathic doctor it is better to have one 
who lets you die than to have one who gives you medicines 
that kill. 

Here is another comment which might well cause her read 
ers to reflect: "People do not want the truth. A mirror which 
shows them as they are would horrify them." 

And what would the fair sex say to this? "A woman's 
whole life is ambition. To be important is her dream. Love, 
to a woman, means nothing but success. She wishes to be 
loved only to assure herself that she is lovable." 

It is not often that Delphine discourses on religion, though 
there are reasons to believe it was not always absent from 
her thoughts. In one passage she says, "With people who 
have no faith, publicity takes the place of confession. . . . 
Morality exists only for those who have it not. Those who are 
moral never speak of iL They take it as a matter of course." 

The corner-stone of her religion was joy. Through all the 
ages, she tells us, happiness has been thought of as a precious 
stone which men are always seeking but have never found. 



DELPHINE GAY 157 

Far from that is the truth. Happiness Is a mosaic of thousands 
of little stones, valueless by themselves, hut, when joined 
together, of transcendent beauty. 

This may seem like poetry, and in truth her way of look 
ing at everything was poetic. Describing the orangerie in the 
Luxembourg gardens she says God must have wanted to 
punish the French people when he forbade the superb pine 
apple to ripen in Paris. And in placing the strawberry so 
close to the ground, and making it so delicate to the touch, 
he must have intended that it should be plucked only by the 
tiny hands of children. 

In one of her letters she gives us her conception of "the 
true woman" a little fanciful, perhaps, but still indicative 
of discernment. "She is a frail creature, ignorant, timid, and 
indolent, who cannot live by herself, who loses color at a 
cross word and blushes at a kind one, whose life is guided 
by an inspiration from above an inexplicable being with 
noble qualities in big things and amiable defects in little 
ones. She is a treasure-house of fears and hopes." 

Delphine certainly would not have cared for the modern 
woman. A woman's duty, she says, is to reign, not govern. 
Men do not want women to share their work but to distract 
them from it. Her ideal woman was the famous tragedienne 
Rachel, who began life as a street singer and ended with 
the reputation of being the most artistic actress that the world 
had ever known. To Delphine more than to any other person 
Rachel owed her early recognition by the theater-goers of 
Paris. She was but seventeen when the Lettres parisiennes 



158 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

began to sing Her praises, and in less than two years after 
Delphine had become her sponsor Rachel's genius was pro 
claimed on every hand. Soon after, an intimacy grew up 
between these women which had an important influence upon 
the lives of both. 

To get a clear picture of the situation one must know a 
little about the current of French dramatic art. Ever since 
madame de Stael had published her epoch-making novels 
there had been a growing interest in romance that is to say, 
in books which portrayed the development of personality 
instead of furnishing a mere recital of events. Readers were 
breaking away from the classics and the so-called romantic 
school was getting the upper hand. Under the leadership of 
Lamartine, and Alfred de Musset, and Alfred de Vigny, and 
Victor Hugo, stories that depicted contemporary emotions 
were the only things anybody cared to read. The smaller 
theaters in Paris yielded gradually to the popular taste, and 
in 1830 the Comedie-Frangaise so far acquiesced as to permit 
Victor Hugo's Hernani to be produced. The success of this 
performance was so emphatic that the romantic writers were 
confident they had won the day. But the Comedie-Frangaise 
was a national institution and was not yet ready to give up 
the fight. That was the situation when Rachel accepted a con 
tract from the national theater, and her marvellous powers 
as a tragedienne went far to restore the popularity of the 
classics. Her acting of Racine's Phedre won so universal 
applause that for the time being the romanticists were 
hushed. 



DELPHINE GAY 159 

Delphine, whose idealism led her to glorify the splendors 
of the past, threw all her influence in favor of the classics, 
and conceived the project of writing a tragedy to be played 
by Rachel. It was a play in which Rachel, by reason of her 
hebraic ancestry, seemed eminently fitted to play the leading 
role. She seems to have entered into the scheme with enthusi 
asm, and to have encouraged Delphine to go on with the 
work. She writes, "I dream of Judith and of its author. Our 
talk together comes often to my memory, and I hope you 
will finish what you have so well begun. You are good 
enough to ask me to encourage you in your desire that I 
should play the role. Did I not know your modesty, I should 
reply that it would fill me with pride to do so." The play 
was given at the Comedie-Frangaise in 1843, and w 7 as vocif 
erously applauded, as all of Rachel's acting was, and four 
years later another of Delphine's tragedies, Cleopatre, was 
presented on the same stage with Rachel once more in the title 
role. This was Delphine's final effort as a writer of tragic 
plays. In spite of the artistic acting of the great tragedienne 
it was manifest that the plays themselves did not rise above 
mediocrity. Tragic drama w T as entirely outside the realm of 
Delphine's talent. 

Meantime the success of her Lettres parisiennes had 
brought Delphine to realize that by confining herself to 
comedy she was more likely to excel. Her first production 
in that line, C7est la faute du mari was a rather unpretentious 
piece. This was followed in 1853 by Lady Tartuffe, in which 
she succeeded in persuading Rachel to take the leading part. 



160 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

This comedy, though not a work of genius, was much better 
than anything else that Delphine wrote for the stage. The 
name, of course, was borrowed from Moliere's famous play 
in which Tartuffe was represented as a sanctimonious hypo 
crite who shrank from no duplicity to gain his selfish ends. 
Delphine, in selecting Lady Tartuffe as the central figure of 
her comedy, undertook to show that hypocrisy was not con 
fined exclusively to the ruder sex. Some of the situations 
which she depicts are not altogether real. The shifting of 
sentiment is altogether too swift and outruns the recital of 
events which most persons would require in order to recast 
their views. The strength of the piece lies in the writer's 
skill in developing a mystery. Until the curtain is about 
to fall in the last act you cannot determine exactly where 
to place the guilt. Lady Tartuffe, a penurious widow whose 
marriage certificate appears to be more or less mythical, 
wants to marry a rich old marquis, whose thoughts are too 
busy with the approaching marriage of his favorite niece 
to let his mind be turned to the question of a matrimonial 
alliance for himself. Lady Tartuffe has an interview with 
the marquis and tells him of a serious indiscretion which 
the young niece had committed a short time before at the 
marquis 9 country estate, and the recital of this event so horri 
fies the marquis that he resolves to disown his entire family. 
Lady Tartuffe by her activity in sponsoring philanthropies 
has gained the reputation of a paragon of virtue, and the 
marquis, overwhelmed with gratitude for her disinterested 
labor in disclosing to him the truth, asks her to become his 



DELPHINE GAY 161 

wife. The young girl's fiance, who, as it turns out, had once 
been Lady Tartuffe's lover, and hence is familiar with her 
duplicity, demands that she produce her proofs. The 
gardener on the marquis' estate is therefore summoned. 
Though heartbroken at having to recount a story so damag 
ing to his employer's family, he divulges the whole affair. 
He was sound asleep, he says, when he was awakened about 
three o'clock in the morning by the barking of his dog. 
He jumped out of bed and, seizing his gun, rushed out on 
the lawn to see what was the matter. He hid behind one of 
the bushes and saw mademoiselle all in white in the center 
pathway which was under the full light of the moon. He 
noticed that she was not alone. She seemed perfectly calm 
though she appeared anxious not to be seen. There was a 
young man with her and she was evidently on very familiar 
terms with him. She huddled close up to him in a caress 
ing sort of way. When they reached the garden gate the 
gardener climbed up on the wall to see who the young 
man was, and then he saw that it was Charles Valleray, 
son of the prefect, whom the family had refused to receive 
in their home because of his political views. Just then he 
heard a window being closed in the hotel de France, which 
adjourned the chateau; and the whole incident caused him 
such distress that he asked the family to let him leave their 
service, hoping thus to avoid being questioned about his 
mistress's young daughter to whom he had been devotedly 
attached ever since she was a child. 

This straightforward recital seemed to leave no doubt 



162 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

about the young girl's guilt. Even her mother was forced 
to admit it. No one dared to stand up for her except her 
fiance, who demanded that she be summoned and explain 
her conduct if she could. And this is what she said: 

"My mother had been dangerously ill oh! so ill, for 
three weeks. She no longer recognized us. Her great eyes 
stared straight ahead but saw nothing. We all despaired of 
her life. They all looked at me and whispered 'poor child. 49 
It was terrible. At last toward evening of that day she grew 
calmer, and the doctor said if she could sleep three or four 
hours she would recover. Then he left and soon after mamma 
fell into a gentle sleep. Without saying a word, almost with 
out breathing, old Therese and Fanny and I made prepara 
tions for the night. Therese curled herself up in a big arm 
chair, Fanny went to sleep in her bed, and I fell on my knees 
in prayer. The silence was so deep that I could hear the 
clock tick, and the idea came to me to creep up to it and 
stop it so that it would not strike and wake mamma. I had 
no sooner done that than I heard at the end of the garden 
our big watchdog Caesar barking as if he were mad, and he 
kept coming nearer to the house, barking louder and louder. 
Oh! my God! I thought, if he should come and bark under 
mamma's windows he would wake her and all the benefit of 
her sleep would be lost. Hardly conscious of what I did I 
seized a little lamp which was on the table and ran down 
stairs. Terhaps it is robbers,' I said to myself, but I felt 
no fear. I was full of courage. I opened the front door and 
what did I see on the terrace? This rabid Caesar in the act of 



DELPHI NE GAY 163 

tearing to pieces a young man. While Caesar had his teeth 
on the young man there was no danger, for he couldn't bark. 
But the young man had in his hand a stout stick with which 
he was striking at the dog. I knew the moment Caesar let go 
he would start barking again, and wake up the whole house 
hold. I went up to Monsieur Valleray, whom I recognized, 
and I said to him, Take my hand and appear to be very 
friendly with me. 5 Monsieur Valleray understood at once, 
and seized my hand. I then spoke very sweetly to him and 
began to caress him like that, at the same time saying to 
Caesar, This is my good friend, Monsieur Valleray. We 
love him very much and you must not hurt him or bark at 
him. Don't be angry, you see he is one of our friends.* In 
fact, I behaved very affectionately to Monsieur Valleray and 
this made a great impression on Caesar and he finally let 
go his hold. I then went and got the key of the garden gate, 
and I led Monsieur Valleray out of it, holding his hand as if 
I were in love with him, because this terrible Caesar looked 
very suspicious and I did not dare to trust him. Then I went 
back to the house, trembling all over lest all this noise had 
awakened dear mamma." , 

This explanation, of course, completely restored the young 
girl's reputation, and then the only things to be cleared up 
were the reason for Valleray's being in the garden at that hour 
and the identity of the person who closed the window in the 
hotel de France. Both these mysteries were cleared up when 
Lady Tartuffe broke down and admitted that Valleray had 
jumped out of the window after visiting her. 



164 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

It is easy to see that the role of Lady Tartuffe offered no 
such dramatic possibilities as those to which the great 
tragedienne had been accustomed. Nothing but her personal 
relations with Delphine could have induced her to take the 
part at all. The fact was, Rachel was under a heavy obliga 
tion to Delphine even when at the height of her fame. As the 
daughter of a Jewish peddler it was not easy for her to storm 
the portals of the boulevard Saint-Germain. No one could 
do this for her so well as Delphine, whose social position, 
coupled with her artistic contacts, made her an ideal medi 
ator. Rachel's lack of education was of course an impedi 
ment, which indeed she frankly admitted. To a member of 
the Academic who so admired her diction on the stage that 
he told her she had saved the French language from destruc 
tion she replied, "Yes, sir, and I deserve all the more credit 
as I can hardly speak it correctly." 

Very likely Rachel would not have stooped to comedy 
while her reputation as a tragedienne was at its height, but 
in the six years that elapsed between her performance of 
Cleopatre and the production of Lady Tartuffe things had 
happened to the great tragedienne. Comte Walewski, who 
had set her up in a palatial mansion in Paris, had now with 
drawn his protection, and she had begun to have a premoni 
tion of the pulmonary affection which four years later was 
to carry her to the grave. Though tremendous throngs still 
crowded the theater whenever her name appeared upon the 
bills, people were whispering that Ristori, the great Italian 
actress, would soon drive her off the stage. The director 



DELPHINE GAY 165 

of the Comedie-Frangaise was growing restive under her 
exactions, and she had an altercation with him which resulted 
in her refusing for a time to renew her contract. Delphine at 
once came to the rescue and planned to build a theater in 
the garden back of her house in the rue de ChaUlot where 
Rachel was to act. This generous project came to naught, as 
the manager of the Comedie-Frangaise patched up his differ 
ence with her. But the incident was an added evidence of 
Delphine's loyalty and may have been the cause of Rachel's 
willingness to play the part of Lady Tartuffe. 

It is hard to believe that Delphine's devotion to the great 
actress was based on personal affection. These two women 
had no common background. Their modes of living w T ere 
as far apart as the poles. What drew Delphine to Rachel 
was wholly appreciation of the value of artistic accomplish 
ment. You cannot read a line of the Lettres parisiennes with 
out being conscious of the writer's artistic temperament. In 
recounting the incidents of her daily life you can see that 
her thoughts were always centered on what was beautiful 
rather than on what was useful. Paris, she says, is equipped 
with every sort of convenience, but it is spoiled by being 
so habitable. On purely aesthetic grounds she hated to see 
the passing of the old regime. When princesse Helene who 
had married the exiled due d'Orleans visited Paris, Delphine 
reminded her that she would find none of the poetry amidst 
which she had been brought up in Germany. "The reign of 
the tricolor is the reign of prose. We have no princesses. We 
have no poets. At our court the great ladies have no more 



166 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

honor than the humblest peasant." And in another passage 
she exclaims, "I bemoan the king of ancient France, the 
chivalric, brilliant, and poetic France; and I vainly seek in 
the bourgeois France of to-day that flower of courtesy, that 
perfume of royalty, that majestic benevolence which is gone 
forever." Such expressions appear a bit extravagant when 
we turn our thoughts upon the millions of humble citizens 
whom that majestic benevolence never reached. Looking at 
it as a whole the nation could view with equanimity the 
decline of royal power. Still, Delphine was quite right in 
asserting that by gaining individual liberty the people were 
throwing away many of the things that lent embellishment 
to life. 

It was ridiculous, she thought, to talk so much about 
equality. As an ideal, it was perfect. But it was not a fact. 
A sluggard is not the equal of a man who works. Nature 
never intended that all men should be equal. Some are 
endowed with force, others with intelligence, others with 
beauty. All that society can do is to offer compensations to 
those who are not blessed by nature. You can give riches to 
those who lack force, education to those who lack intelli 
gence, position to those who have no beauty. Society can 
pass laws to give consolation to the unfortunate, but it is 
beyond the power of law to make the fool and wise man equal. 

Taken as a whole, the period in which she lived was a 
period of great material prosperity. France was extending 
her commerce all over the world, and was adding much to 
her colonial possessions. Algeria was conquered and made 



DELPHINE GAY 167 

a part of France. The Marquesas Islands were wrested from 
the United States. Cochinchina was being opened up to lucra 
tive trade. Constantinople was captured, and many of the 
seaports along the eastern end of the Mediterranean fell 
under French control. In 1837 the first railroad in France 
was built, extending from Paris to Saint-Germain. In 1839 
Daguerre introduced his invention of making photographs on 
a sensitized plate. Gas was being installed on the boulevards 
which had hitherto been equipped with nothing but oil lamps. 
Business was advancing with rapid strides. Everybody 
seemed to be making money. The streets of Paris were so 
filled with bustling crowds that one could hardly make his 
way about; and they were so infested with robbers that it 
was not safe to go out at night. As Delphine said, "France 
has become a nation of wig-makers, and everything that isn't 
useful has been abolished." She remarked that people did not 
seem to realize that the things which have no utility are the 
only things that make a nation great. They have come to place 
a money value on everything, and do not see that the real 
things of life, the things which give durable satisfaction, can 
not be bought with money. She hated to see people with no 
taste crowding into everything; and she commented on the 
grotesquely dressed women who drove up to the Louvre every 
day in their pretentious equipages. When Paris was being 
fortified in 1840, she felt it was turning the city into an armed 
camp and bringing the intellectual pre-eminence of Paris 
to an end. 

According to her it was the heyday of tradespeople. In 



168 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

their hands were concentrated all the money as well as all 
the power. The sugar-coated bourgeoisie, as she loved to call 
them, were making France the laughing-stock of Europe. 
Always lavishly attired, but in execrable taste, they had no 
ideas of their own, but were always looking around to see how 
others behaved. "Finding themselves by a stroke of luck in 
a sphere with which they were unacquainted, they have im 
provised a code of elegance which will soon become generally 
adopted if ladies of refinement don't use their influence to 
combat it." She saw in their antics an utter absence of indi 
vidual initiative. "There are no longer any genuine women. 
Their place has been taken by an aggregation of mechanical 
dolls." 

During all the years while she was contributing to La 
Presse the throne was occupied by Louis-Philippe, the "citizen 
king," Though of royal lineage he had divested himself of 
all his titles, and before coming to the throne had led the life 
of an ordinary citizen. As a school-teacher in Switzerland 
and as a traveller in the United States he had become thor 
oughly imbued with democratic principles and had held 
himself out as a firm advocate of the doctrine of equal rights. 
The royal authority came to him not by usurpation but by 
election of the chambre des deputes. Instead of being called 
the king of France he was given the title "King of the French." 
It was understood that he held office merely as a representa 
tive of the people. And he agreed to rule according to the 
terms of a charter which made him subservient in all respects 
to the deputies elected by the people. His authority was so 



DELPHI NE GAY 169 

limited that neither he nor his subjects knew whether France 
should be designated as a kingdom or republic. 

The scheme of government had been framed by men who 
honestly believed they were establishing a republic, but 
very soon after the scheme was adopted they saw that what 
they had set in motion was in no sense a government by 
the people, since the property qualification of electors was so 
high that only an infinitesimal number of the people had a 
right to vote. The franchise was restricted to those who paid 
in taxes two hundred francs a year, which meant that in a 
population of thirty-four million only two hundred and forty 
thousand had a voice in the election of deputies; and more 
over there were one hundred and fifty public functionaries 
who had a right to sit in the chambre by virtue of their office. 
As time wore on, the complaint was often heard that the dep 
uties kept themselves in power by distributing these offices 
among their friends and were much more interested in buy 
ing votes than in attending to the country's business. Some of 
them became so obsessed with their own importance that they 
paid no deference to the king. A story went the rounds that 
on one occasion the king met a deputy on the street and stood 
with head uncovered till the deputy told him to put on his hat. 

Delphine, regretting as she did the passing of the old re 
gime, was shocked at the indignities that were heaped upon 
the king, "It is not his fault," she wrote, "that this epoch is 
not more beautiful, that stucco has taken the place of solid 
mouldings, that papier-mache has replaced bronze, that we 
have bald deputies instead of ambassadors with long perukes, 



170 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

that frock coats are worn in place of velvet uniforms, and 
black cravats in place of lace jabots." She did not think the 
thing would last. She felt that if France were to have a king 
at all he must be given real power. Louis-Philippe, she said, 
had only the semblance of power. He could declare war, but 
he could not carry it on because the people had control of 
the purse strings. In her Lettres parisiennes, Delphine grew 
more and more insistent that a new form of government must 
be brought about. She denounced Thiers, who, she said, had 
great talent but was obsessed by the idea that he was a great 
statesman. She asserted that France was governed by the 
rich electors and that Thiers by pretending to be a great 
statesman had become the laughing-stock of Europe. 

This plain language did much to add to the unrest, par 
ticularly as it echoed the sentiments of Delphine's husband, 
whose paper had now become the main vehicle for dissemi 
nating the popular antagonism to the government. Filing 
was growing so bitter that many were talking of insurrection. 
This catastrophe the king tried to avert by changing his min 
isters, but he was so vacillating that, as Delphine declares, he 
reminded one of a farmer who let the summer slip by while 
he was deciding which horse to hitch to the plow. After a 
while the situation became so menacing that the deputies vir 
tually selected the ministry themselves. By forming coali 
tions of members holding divergent principles they sought to 
stay the clamor of the people, but in the nature of things such 
coalitions could not expect long life. According to Delphine, 
the life of a ministry was little more than a day. It was 



DELPHINE GAY 171 

becoming monotonous, she said, to see men going out of 
office one day and coming back the nest. 

In 1847 her friend Lamartine published his Histoire des 
girondins which openly advocated a republic; and the smoul 
dering disaffection burst into flames. In February, 1848, 
insurrection broke out in Paris. La Presse demanded the abdi 
cation of the king, and Delphine's husband became the fore 
most champion of those who favored a republic. Hoping to 
appease the people, Louis-Philippe, on February 24th, abdi 
cated in favor of his son. Many of the deputies refused to 
assent to this change, and the turmoil increased still further. 
Girardin, expecting daily to be arrested, shut himself up in 
his office and communicated with his wife only by letter. 
One day the insurgents fired on the sentinel posted near her 
house. She wrote to her husband and asked if she should hide 
their valuables so as to save them if the house were pillaged. 
"No," he wrote back, "I have nothing to save or hide. If the 
guard is overpowered and rioters try to enter our house, open 
the door wide and be exceedingly polite. That is the best form 
of resistance." She followed his instructions to the letter. 
Whenever she went out the servants w T ere told to say to any 
one who tried to break in, "Monsieur and madame de Girar 
din will not permit their fellow citizens to steal. We offer you 
as a present anything in our house w r hich you desire." 

On June 25th, Girardin was arrested, and wrote to her from 
his cell asking her to send him some fresh linen and a cloak to 
lie down on. She complied with his request but heard nothing 
further from him for five days. Then she got a letter saying 



172 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

he was well and comfortable., and soon after he was released. 

That was the end of the Lettres parisiennes. The election 
of Louis-Napoleon as the president of the new republic, fol 
lowed by the coup d'etat in which he established the Second 
Empire, swept away many of the incongruities which she had 
been assailing; and the few remaining years of her life were 
given up to the amenities of society and the production of a 
few light pieces of writing for the stage. 

Among the literary men who basked occasionally in the 
sunshine of Delphine's genial society was the whimsical 
Honore de Balzac whose infatuation dated back to the days 
when everyone had been captivated by her youth and beauty. 
Nature certainly never designed Balzac to be a successful 
aspirant for the female heart. He was short and fat and awk 
ward. His manners were crude and his taste was execrable. 
Though he possessed a marvellous capacity to depict the 
character of all sorts of people, his own personality and the 
impression that it had on others were entirely outside his 
power to comprehend. His personal vanity was so excessive 
that it was constantly leading Trim into actions in which he 
was utterly grotesque. Ten years of unremitting industry in 
the writing of novels had brought him no pecuniary reward, 
but nothing could shake his confidence in his literary skill. 
When he became acquainted with Delphine he was being 
chased by creditors and only a few of his intimates were kept 
informed of his address. Apparently she was one of the first 
to recognize his talent. At any rate she took compassion on 
him and sought to admit him into the circle of her friends. 



DELPHINE GAY 173 

That was ratter an uphill task. He never fitted into the literary 
set that frequented her salon. Most of her friends thought him 
a boor and laughed at his grotesque efforts to make himself 
conspicuous. Her nature was too kindly to take offense be 
cause he put on airs, and in one of his letters we find him 
calling her his pupil without any justification so far as 
one can see. He seems to have imposed a little on her good 
nature and one day she permitted him to take her out to 
drive in his tilbury. In the course of the drive he overturned 
the tilbury and she came back with a lacerated hand. He was 
then addressing her as "divine Delphine" and was asking 
her to write the preface to his tudes des femmes. He labored 
under the delusion that he had touched her heart. The truth 
was, he was writing stories for her husband's newspaper and 
Delphine deemed it prudent to humor Kim so far as she could 
without overstepping the bounds of propriety. 

There came a time when nothing but Delphine's interces 
sion kept the writer and the publisher from blows. Balzac, 
after ten years of unrewarded application, had emerged from 
obscurity and had reached a level in the world of literature 
which he believed entitled Kim to an increase in his pecuniary 
reward, fimile de Girardin, to whose publications Balzac 
was still in the habit of contributing, was a little tardy in 
recognizing Balzac's worth, and an altercation arose between 
them in which each used language which the other vehemently 
resented. The quarrel coming to Delphine's ears, she sought 
out Balzac and attempted to appease his wrath. Two weeks 
kter she wrote to him a conciliatory letter pointing out the 



174 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

wisdom of patching up their differences and saying that 
neither he nor her husband was showing common sense. She 
closed by inviting him to dinner, and declared that her sister 
was particularly eager to meet him. Three months later she 
invited him again, and, both of these invitations being de 
clined, she published an amusing little story entitled La canne 
de M. de Balzac, in which she endeavored to flatter his vanity. 
This little story had the desired effect, and Balzac and her 
husband laid aside the gloves. 

Twice in her Lettres parisiennes she says a word in praise 
of Balzac. In one of his novels he had claimed that a woman's 
real love does not begin until she is mature. "M. de Balzac," 
she comments, "is bound to portray passion where he finds it, 
and he certainly can no longer find it in the girl of sixteen. 
. . . The dreams of youth to-day are dreams of ambition. No 
young girl marries to-day except to gain position. . . . Look 
at any of the women who now shine in society. They all 
began with an ambitious marriage. They all looked forward 
to being rich, to being countesses, marchionesses, or duchesses. 
It is only after they have learned the folly of these vanities 
that their hearts have turned to love. When they are twenty- 
eight or thirty they fall desperately in love with the young 
man whom they refused at seventeen." 

Four years later Delphine again took up her pen in defense 
of Balzac. The critics were denouncing him for putting on 
the stage a play which depicted thievery and assassination. 
"It is not," she says, "the fault of modern writers that their 
descriptions of life contain no poetry. The cleverest architect 



DELPHINE GAY 175 

can build only with the materials which he has at hand. . . . 
In olden days the most commonplace things were idealized, 
language was pompous, images were fantastic. People talked 
in the language of the gods. Nowadays, on the contrary, the 
most beautiful ideals are presented in vulgar dress." 

No better illustration can be given of Delphine's feeling for 
Balzac. She recognized him as an accurate delineator of the 
times. But between them there was no real bond of friendship. 
She was a poet; he was a realist. So long as he lived she con 
tinued to invite him to her house, and sometimes he refused 
on the ground that she was surrounded by all the literary lions 
while he was only a compositor of prose. This confession did 
not come from him, however, until he was drawing to the end. 
His eyes had become opened to the absurdity of imagining 
that he and Delphine stood on common ground. 

Of all the literary geniuses who fell under the spell of 
Delphine's personality there was none more steadfast in his 
admiration than the illustrious poet and romanticist, Victor 
Hugo. When he was a rising young poet he had joined en 
thusiastically in the eulogies with which Delphine was being 
welcomed into the coterie of literary people, and she on her 
part was one of the first to recognize Hugo's marvellous 
imaginative power. She was but two years his junior, and it 
is manifest from his earliest letters that he was fascinated by 
her. His estimation of Delphine's artistic capacity was un 
questionably warped. But the rapture which overwhelmed 
him when he first gazed into her beautiful eyes never faded 
away, and to the end of her life he never wavered from his 



176 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

early conception of her as one of the most brilliant writers of 
the day. In all his letters to her there was an air of gallantry 
that is eloquent of the promptings of his heart. The first letter 
that we have was written to accept an invitation to hear one 
of his brother authors read at her house. "With great 
pleasure," he writes, "I will hear him read at your house 
and in your presence. Permit me, madame, to lay at your feet 
my most sincere homage." Rather stately language, one might 
think; but this was always a characteristic habit of Hugo's. 

A little later, in securing theater tickets for Delphine, he 
writes, "Excuse this scrawl. My eyes are worse than ever. May 
your lovely eyes have pity on mine, which are neither lovely 
nor good. I throw myself at your feet." And again, "You were 
very charming, madame, and very generous to me day before 
yesterday. I was overwhelmed and confused, when I left you, 
for leaving you so late." She had now, for the present at any 
rate, abandoned poetry and was immersed in her Lettres 
parisiennes. But this made no breach in their cordial rela 
tions. "I intended yesterday to bring my answer to you in 
person as soon as I had read your enchanting Courrier. 
Something kept me at my house, but I have no complaint as 
it brought me two letters from you instead of one. I am going 
to dine with you to-morrow, and then will you permit me to 
kiss your beautiful hands and offer you the homage of my 
most tender respect." He signs this letter "Victor." 

On Hugo's election to the Academic frangaise in 1841, 
Delphine seized the opportunity to laud his merits. He won 
by only two votes, and she did not shrink from telling the 



DELPHINE GAY 177 

public whence the opposition came. It was from the trades 
folk, who were either too busy or too ignorant to familiarize 
themselves with Hugo's marvellous intellectual achievements. 
Those who think and feel, those who are famous in the world 
of letters, were unanimous in favoring his election. 6 The 
Academie needs a few great geniuses like Hugo to prevent its 
stately members from falling into a doze." 

Then followed a period of ten years in which a profound 
change was coming about in the intellectual activity of Hugo. 
Like Delphine he was abandoning poetry and allowing his 
thoughts to dwell on politics. More and more he was absorb 
ing the revolutionary ideas that were set forth in the news 
paper published by Delphine's husband. When the republic 
was proclaimed in 1848 he took his seat in the assemblee 
constituante where he remained till Louis-Napoleon overthrew 
the republic and declared himself emperor. Hugo was forced 
to flee, and remained in exile for nineteen years, thus termi 
nating his intimate relations with Delphine. 

Still, in the solitude of his home in Jersey where he had 
taken refuge, he pined for the companionship of Delphine. 
He begged her to come to him and read the drama which she 
was now writing for the stage. She shared his indignation at 
the coup d'etat which had placed a Napoleon once more upon 
the throne. "We all love you," he writes. "When I think of 
France (and I am always thinking of her) I think of you." 

Once, she braved the hostility of Napoleon and made the 
journey. After she had returned to Paris he wrote her about 
her latest poem, which she had left for him to read. "You 



178 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

have composed a somber and charming poem," he declared. 
"The strange and passing fancy of a heart torn in opposite 
directions by a double love you have painted admirably. In 
your book there is a charm of mystery, a pathos, and a grace, 
which you alone possess." 

A few months later, to enliven his exile, she sent him a 
copy of her Lettres parisiennes which had just been pub 
lished in book form, and he acknowledged the gift thus: "Just 
now one of my friends was sitting at one side of the fireplace 
and I at the other when the vicomte de Launay came and sat 
down between us. In plain language, we talked of only you. 
Exiles generally can weep or laugh, but you triumphed over 
everything, for we thought of nothing but your bewitching 
smile. Thanks to you, despite the snow and the misery of our 
exile, we had for a moment at Marine-Terrace a real salon of 
which you were the queen and we your subjects. What a 
charming book you have sent me. Once I used to read its 
separate sheets as they came out from the press; now I read 
it page by page. I find there ancient diamonds and new pearls 
and, scattered among them, all sorts of exquisite things. 
You say, C A11 is lost, the women are on the side of the victors 
and against the vanquished.' I say, "All is saved, for a woman 
is with us, and what a woman! It is you. 5 Yes, you are a real 
woman, for you have beauty and a tender heart you under 
stand. You smile, you love. You are a real woman with a 
power to teach both sexes. You know how to tell men where 
to fix their aspirations and to tell women where to place their 
affections." 



DELPHINE GAY 179 

After her death, while his heart was still tingling with 
emotion, he jotted down some verses which show how deep 
his feelings for her were: 

"Jadis je vous disais: Vivez, regnez, madame! 
Le salon vous attend, le succes vous reclame! 
Le bal eblouissant palit quand vous partez! 
Soyez illustre et belle! Aimez! riez! chantez! 
Vous avez la splendeur des astres et des roses! 
Votre regard charmant, ou je lis tant de choses, 
Commente vos discours legers et gracieux. 
Ce que dit votre bouche etincelle en vos yeux." 



MARIS i'AGOULT 



MARIE D'AGOULT, a contemporary of Delphine Gay, is 
known chiefly by her effort to arouse the public to a more 
liberal attitude regarding women's rights. That was a move 
ment which made much headway in the earlier half of the 
nineteenth century, though its progress was not easily discern 
ible in the realm of government or finance. To the present day, 
women do not sit in the chambre des deputes or hold property 
entirely free from marital control. What they have gained is 
greater freedom to regulate their private lives. For that they 
are indebted in no small measure to Marie d'Agoult, 

181 



T 

JLo 



. O SAY that Marie d'Agoult was one of the leaders in 
the movement for the enfranchisement of women would be 
to accord her a position which she hardly claimed. It is true 
she published a couple of essays in which she cried out 
against the wrong inflicted on women in withholding from 
them all participation in governmental affairs. But she took 
no part in organized effort to modify the laws, and her in- 
fluence as a reformer lay almost wholly in the boldness with 
which she established her own individuality in defiance of 
the recognized moral code. Her wealth and social standing 

182 




MARIE D' AGOULT 



MARIE d'AGOULT 183 

kept her always in the public eye and lent to her manner of 
living a significance which affected deeply the current of 
contemporaneous life. 

In spite of her escapade with Liszt there was always an 
air of respectability in her demeanor. Her salon was never 
frequented by any except persons of serious character and 
she went to infinite pains to see that the conversation did not 
degenerate into banter. Her own experiences were studiously 
avoided in the discussions which went on under her roof. To 
all appearances her thoughts were centered on historical and 
philosophical problems. It was not till after her death that 
there was found among her papers an intimate and revealing 
story of her relations with the famous virtuoso. In these 
Memoires she laid hare the emotions that had led her to 
break away from the conventions which, as she believed, 
prevented the natural and full development of her soul. 

Marie was the daughter of the comte de Flavigny, whose 
ancestors had been for centuries leading men in France. Her 
father was one of the emigres of the Revolution and her 
mother belonged to a wealthy family of German bankers. 
Marie's childhood was spent in Frankfort where German 
romanticism held full sway. Later her parents took up their 
abode in France, and thereafter Marie's youth was passed 
under the influences that governed Paris after the Revolution 
had run its course. In describing this period of her develop 
ment Marie later pictured it as a period of mental and emo 
tional distress. She was never able to shake off the inspiration 
of her earliest years. "I have never been able to say truly 



184 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

that I was either French or German. I have always felt iso 
lated a stranger to the country of my birth and to that in 
which it has been my lot to live.^As she grew into maturity 
she came more and more to rebel against the light-hearted 
view of love which she found was prevalent in the aristocratic 
circles of Parisian society. She says, "The need of a single, 
undivided love has dominated all the sentiments of my life." 
In fact, that became the guiding spring of all her action. As 
a young girl she devoured Anne Radcliffe's novels with in 
satiable curiosity. "I lived in the company of beautiful prin 
cesses, in enchanted arbors where one breathed of love." After 
leaving the convent in Paris where, like most French girls, 
she was trained in daily acts of devotion, she was given the 
final touches of an education from which she recoiled in 
terror. She knew that in Germany a young lady was taught to 
develop along the lines for which she had special aptitude, 
with the aim to acquire a character that would be independent 
of situations which she could not control. But she found that 
in France the sole idea was to acquire graces. "It is expected 
that a young lady of good breeding shall become proficient 
in dancing, designing, music, whether or not her talent lies 
in those directions, and merely to make her suitable for a 
prospective husband who in all probability will care nothing 
for art or balls and who on the day following the wedding 
will require her to close her piano, throw away her crayons, 
and stop dancing." 

This rather exaggerated picture of French demoralization 
makes it clear that Marie was not living in a congenial atmos- 



MARIE d'AGOULT 185 

phere. Though the most exclusive society in France was al 
ways open to her, she never felt that it was quite her own. 
Born in Frankfort and reared by a protestant mother, her 
intellectual processes always ran in German channels, and 
her sentiments were more or less tinctured by ideas that were 
current in the land where she was born. 

It did not take her long to find out that in the eyes of those 
about her she had a considerable matrimonial value. With 
an income of three hundred thousand francs, she was deemed 
a tres-bon-parti, and in the five years that elapsed between 
her leaving the convent and her marriage there was a steady 
procession of suitors at her door. The main topics of conver 
sation in her family were the titles and pecuniary standing of 
men who sought her hand. It seemed to her as if they talked 
of nothing but figures, and she was appalled to learn that 
marriage seemed to be little more than a pecuniary negotia 
tion. Finally she became so sick of the whole business that 
she told her mother she didn't want to hear any more about 
it she would leave it to her family advisers to pick out a 
husband for her and she would abide by their decision. 

Clothed with this mandate they succeeded in arranging an 
alliance which was admirable from a material point of view. 
Le comte d'Agoult was related to many of the best families in 
France and was a nephew of the chief equerry of the dau- 
phine. He was himself a colonel of cavalry in the service of 
the king. His means, though less than those of his bride, were 
ample, and he had acquired an enviable reputation for bra 
very and for devotion to his profession. Unfortunately, how- 



186 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

ever, he was utterly indifferent to art, to music, to literature, 
and to all those things that add embellishment to life. Being 
twenty years older than Marie, his habits had become perma 
nently fixed before he married her. The result was that he 
was never able to adjust himself to her tastes or to share in 
any of her aspirations. She wrote later, in her Memoires, 
that in all her married life with him she never had a single 
hour of joy. 

That was the situation when Liszt came into Marie's life. 
She was then twenty-eight, and the mother of two children, 
Franz was twenty-two. At the age of ten he had been recog 
nized in his native town in Hungary as a prodigy. Two years 
later his parents brought him to Paris where he electrified the 
musical world by his marvellous genius as a pianist. Arrange 
ments were made for him to give exhibitions of his skill at 
all the great houses. He was even taken to England, where he 
played before King George IV. As he grew up, his services 
as a teacher were in constant demand, and he accepted some 
of the offers that were made to him, though he relied chiefly 
on his concerts to provide him with a livelihood. Naturally, 
of course, his ambition was to become a great composer, and 
he composed at that time a number of sonatas which showed 
his extraordinary artistic power. But throughout this period 
his emotions were leading him into all sorts of vagaries. At 
one time he was about to throw aside his musical efforts and 
become a priest. Franz stopped short of holy orders, but his 
journey into the mystic doctrines of the Church gave him a 
new conception of his profession. He became convinced that 



MARIE d'AGOULT 187 

art had no value except as a means to glorified life. Art was 
nothing but the handmaid of religion. While it was through 
science that God taught men the material things of life, it 
was through art alone He showed them what was beautiful. 
The musician, therefore, was nothing but the minister of God, 
and the development of the emotions including love was 
inseparable from all that was divine. Liszt was in this state of 
exaltation when he ran across Chopin, the sensitive and deli 
cate youth whose musical compositions were already startling 
the fashionable society of Paris. 

We have now reached the year 1833. Franz and Chopin 
had become fast friends. Both were creatures of sentiment, 
living in the clouds, dreaming of things ethereal, of music, 
and of love. Franz had grown into manhood, tall, and spare, 
and erect. When his fingers wandered over the keys, his ex 
pression became so intense that he seemed to have lost all 
touch with the material things around him. He had the manner 
of one inspired by God. Chopin, less spectacular in appear 
ance, shrank from public applause. One night, however, 
Franz determined to bring him out. He organized a surprise 
party. A dozen of the best-known musicians gathered at 
Chopin's quarters, each bringing his contribution of food and 
drink, and forced Chopin to take his seat at the piano. Among 
the auditors were several singers, a few composers, a poet, 
George Sand, and Marie d'Agoult, who had been introduced 
by the composer Berlioz. Not long after, Franz agreed to 
come to the house of a marquise whom Marie knew and play 
the piano informally. Marie was invited to come and hear 



188 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

him. From the moment she laid eyes on him, it was like an 
apparition. His large sea-green eyes flashed like waves in the 
sunlight. He had a sad but overpowering expression, and a 
wandering, distracted air. He took his seat by her side and 
began to talk as if he had known her all his life. "Impetuously 
he filled my soul with ideas which were unlike anything I had 
heard from those with whom I was used to converse. ... I 
went home late. I could scarcely sleep, and my mind was 
filled with strange dreams." The next day Marie invited him 
to her house. Her interest in music was the pretext. She found 
that he shared her views on politics and society, and they 
opened their hearts freely to each other. 

Marie naively declares in her Memoires that there was no 
coquetry or gallantry between them, but it requires no pro 
found insight into human nature to see that she was com 
pletely carried off her feet. Her love of music, the boredom 
of her married life, the mystical character of the young vir 
tuoso, contributed to make him the embodiment of her 
dreams. She saw in him not only a lover but a liberator. She 
had always been considered cold, and he was the first man 
who had awakened in her an ardent passion. Her husband 
was so much her senior that Liszt's youth merely added to his 
charms. Soon they were seeing each other almost every day. 

When summer came, she went as usual to her place in the 
country, but she could not keep him out of her thoughts. After 
six weeks, which seemed to her a century, she wrote and 
invited him to visit her. She felt like a person who has long 
been starved. "My youth, without expansion, stifled midway 



MARIE d'AGOULT 189 

in its development, had been only a prolonged childhood. My 
mind was no less eager to learn than my heart to love/ 5 and 
when he arrived "we both felt that we were on the verge of 
culpability." When he sat down at the piano, he created 
harmonies which opened heaven to her. After a few days each 
saw that an irresistible power was bringing them together. 
They began to give voice to their passion. The effect was 
instantaneous "a sudden appeasement of the violences of 
youth, a calmness of the soul and of the senses such as always 
establishes itself between two passionate persons from the 
moment when each confesses to the other the secret of their 
mutual love." 

Soon after, she lost one of her children, and that only made 
matters worse. She and her husband relapsed into silence and 
the distance between them grew wider. Liszt came to see her, 
but both felt that their liaison could not continue while she 
was plunged in grief. He fled from Paris and buried himself 
in the country. Six months later, feeling that he could endure 
the absence no longer, he returned to Paris and found her 
more wrapped up in him than ever. At their first interview 
he burst out, "We must go away." He seized her in his arms 
and cried out, "There is nothing in the world but love. I love 
you and I am going to break off your chains. In life and death 
we are joined together." In telling the story later, Marie says 
his vehemence was so terrific that all her power of resistance 
was gone. Eight days later she quitted France. 

They had no definite plan except to go to Switzerland 
where they could live in solitude and where Liszt could com- 



190 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

pose. They went first to Lake Wallenstadt and then to Bex 
on the Rhone. When autumn came they moved to Geneva and 
put up at a modest hostelry which they used as their head 
quarters while searching for a simple apartment. They had 
no difficulty in making a choice, for they were not exacting. 
All they wanted was a place big enough for Liszt's piano. 
For a few weeks they lived in ecstasy Franz devoting most 
of his time to music and Marie reading and writing when 
she was not gazing into his big dreamy eyes. 

One day she received a letter from her mother expressing 
no indignation and begging Marie to come back and live 
with her. To this request Marie sent back an unqualified re 
fusal. The honeymoon had not yet reached its second quarter. 
As she declared later, "My passion for Franz had grown 
deeper in the solitude of the last few months. It had become 
a sort of fanaticism. I saw in him a being apart from all 
others, superior to anyone I had ever known. ... I was in 
a state of mystic delirium, appointed by God to serve this 
divine genius who had nothing in common with other men 
and who was above all human laws." 

This letter, however, gave occasion for the first jar in their 
relations. When she had read it Franz asked in an off-hand 
manner if it contained any news from France. She was 
shocked by his lack of comprehension. He seemed to be 
thinking only of extraneous matters, and to attach no im 
portance to the stupendous sacrifice she had made in giving 
herself up to him. 

The next shock came when Franz ran across a youngster 



MARIE d'AGOULT 191 

whose musical talent aroused his interest, and he asked Marie 
to let the boy come and share their apartment. It pained her 
dreadfully to realize that Franz should be willing to allow an 
outsider to enter into their lives. How, she thought, could 
Franz fail to see that she had given up her home, her hus 
band, her fortune, everything, for him? He was asking her 
to take up one of his proteges and put him in the place of 
her own children whom she had abandoned. It caused her a 
pang to feel for the first time that he could care for anything 
in which they did not have a common interest. 

It was too late, however, to indulge in recriminations. She 
had broken with the past and it would not do now to quarrel 
with Franz. Their first child was coming in December and 
she felt more and more dependent on the marvellous genius 
with whom she had thrown in her lot. There was no diminution 
of her love, but it was becoming gradually less impetuous; 
and she could not afford to be insistent that he give up his 
whole life to her. 

The truth is, Franz was more and more inclined to break 
away from the monotony of Marie's unceasing devotion. 
Busybodies were already talking about this Juno and the 
tall, loose-jointed youth with disheveled hair and delicate, 
almost feminine, features. Geneva was full of fugitive lovers, 
but this pair showed by their dignified bearing and intellectual 
appearance that they were not of the ordinary kind. In fact, 
Liszt was too great a celebrity to keep his identity long con 
cealed. To Marie's chagrin, before long the story of their 
escapade was in everybody's mouth. People were whispering 



192 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

that she was an adventuress who had got the great virtuoso 
under her spell. 

What made it worse was that they were now no longer 
allowed to live their lives alone. A Russian lady of social 
position and with much musical talent arranged to have 
Franz give her lessons, and she took great pains to introduce 
him into Geneva society. He became, of course, a public 
favorite and before the winter was over he was persuaded to 
give a concert. He even went so far as to insist that Marie 
occupy a box. She was shocked to realize that he had so little 
solicitude for her feelings. It almost seemed as if he wished 
to advertise her humiliating position. She complied with his 
wishes, but the episode left a deep wound in her heart. 

It was while Marie was in Switzerland that she first became 
really intimate with George Sand. The first meeting between 
them had occurred a few years before, when they met casually 
at the theater. They met again at the Chopin party but appar 
ently had no opportunity to become acquainted. In the spring 
of 1835, after Liszt had come into the picture, Sand, who was 
always keyed up by amorous adventures, wrote to Marie, 
"Beautiful, fair-haired countess, I do not know you person 
ally, but I have heard Franz talk about you. ... I cherish a 
constant hope of being allowed to go and see you. ... I hear 
that you want to become a writer. ... Do so whilst you still 
have genius, whilst a divinity dictates to you and you do not 
merely write from memory/ 5 Marie was delighted at the 
thought of knowing the author of the daring novels that 
everybody was discussing, and Sand was burning to be ad- 



MARIE d'AGOULT 193 

mitted into the aristocratic circles from which she had hitherto 
been excluded. But what brought them closer than all else was 
the similarity of their emotion. Sand had just returned from 
her escapade with Alfred de Musset, and Marie w r as about to 
start on hers with Liszt. They came together and laid bare 
their souls. Liszt, who had long been intimate with Sand, was 
filled with joy on seeing them become close friends. Just be 
fore the flight he invited the two women to dine with him at 
his mother's house, and Sand was admitted into the secret of 
their plans. Needless to say, she was enthusiastic over the 
project, and promised to visit them in Switzerland. 

One of the first letters that Marie wrote after she got settled 
was to Sand. "I am burning to dispute the literary palm," 
she wrote, and a spirited literary correspondence followed. 
In January, 1836, their intimacy had proceeded so far that 
Sand dedicated her Simon to the "patricienne." The corre 
spondence was interrupted in the following spring by Sand's 
legal difficulties in getting a divorce from her husband, but 
when that was accomplished she went to Switzerland and 
spent a few weeks with Marie. 

It was now becoming clear that Geneva could not hold 
them longer. Both Marie and Franz were chafing under the 
pettiness of their lives. Marie's love had developed into a sort 
of worship and she felt that Liszt must be given a wider op 
portunity to display his marvellous talent. Franz suggested 
that they go to Italy and she was overjoyed at the thought of 
visiting the land of poetry and song. Their sojourn in Geneva, 
which had opened with a complete consecration of themselves 



194 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

to each other, had ended, if not with disappointment, at least 
with a saner understanding of the difference in their mental 
and moral make-up. They had come to know each other's 
impelling forces. Commenting, later, upon this period, Marie 
wrote, "It was a period of devouring passion, a cruel conflict 
between our two natures, both sincere, noble, and devoted, 
but proud, unsatisfied he feeling and demanding love as a 
young man, unquenchable, of vigorous vitality, and I a 
woman defying destiny, broken down by grief, a dreamer, 
turning my face against reality to lose myself in an impossible 
idealism." 

They did not go at once to Italy, but to Paris, where Franz 
wanted to give a few concerts to keep the pot boiling. It was 
a dreadful ordeal for Marie. Her old family friends refused 
to see her, and the children whom she had had by her hus 
band were not permitted to share her company. So she and 
Liszt hired an apartment in a modest hotel and wrote to Sand 
urging her to take a room in the same hotel. She came, and 
stayed through the winter. The place was overrun with Sand's 
friends of the artistic set a set to which Marie now aspired 
to belong. Sand was just beginning her liaison with Liszt's 
friend Chopin, but Marie was not familiar enough with artists' 
habits to realize what was going on. Sand's oddities were 
amusing and gave an added piquancy to her charm. 

In January, 1837, Sand went back to her country place at 
Nohant after securing from Marie a promise that she would 
visit her there. In February Marie went to Nohant and was 
followed three weeks later by Franz. With a short interrup- 



MARIE d'AGOULT 195 

tion this visit lasted three months, and it gave Marie a good 
opportunity to study the strange character of Sand. "Poor, 
great woman," is her characterization. "The sacred flame that 
God has placed in her finds nothing to devour outside and so 
consumes in her all that remains of faith, youth, hope." This 
comment seems to describe Marie better than Sand, for in 
another passage Marie says, "George is the only woman with 
whom I could live long without fatigue." But her eyes were 
being opened to the gulf that separated them. "My stay at 
Nohant has given solidity to our friendship. I know better 
now how to judge her good and bad traits." Again she says, 
"George is an incorrigible child. She is a weak woman even 
in her audacity, changeable in her sentiments and opinions, 
illogical, her life guided by chance, not by reason or ex 
perience." 

Whatever effect the visit may have had on Marie's rela 
tions with Sand, it gave her an opportunity to get some hold 
on herself. "Though George's nature is not in harmony with 
mine, she has cheered me up. From an extreme distrustful- 
ness of myself, I have come to have a just appreciation of 
my value." She was already coming to see that she had been 
chasing a chimera, and undoubtedly Sand's worldly wisdom 
did much to open Marie's eyes. She was still infatuated, but 
she had at least come to know that it was infatuation and not 
an affection based on any rational grounds. That was a step 
forward, because, though it did not shake her determination 
to cling to Franz, it led her to reflect upon her own capacity 
to do things for herself. Whereas Franz was all a creature 



196 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

of Impulse, she liked to analyze every emotion so as to make 
a record of her individuality. The idea of writing her 
Memoires had already taken shape, and she was beginning 
to realize that she would some day have to face the ending of 
her liaison with Liszt. 

Some of the entries in her journal show that she felt no 
remorse about her escapade. "I have always seen lovers, even 
those whose love grew and was sanctified by time, regret the 
first hours of budding affection and describe them as a period 
of illusion. Is it not childish to bemoan the errors without 
which love perhaps would never have been born?" Even after 
she had become conscious that there must be divergent cur 
rents in their lives her adoration continued without a break. 
"People think him ambitious. He is not, for he knows the 
limits of things, and his perception of the infinite carries his 
soul far beyond all thought of glory and beyond all terrestrial 
joy. ... It is with a love full of respect and sadness that I 
contemplate his beauty. . . . Often his gentle, veiled look is 
fixed on me with an indescribable expression of love and 
tenderness, which gives me a sense of happiness unknown to 
those who have not had such love." 

Occasionally there is a note of helplessness without him. 
She had burned her bridges behind her, and could not easily 
contemplate the thought of giving him up. Her dependence 
on him was real though she always endeavored to give it a 
spiritual significance, as she did when she jotted down the 
confession, "In traversing new scenes with him I feel that he 



MARIE d'AGOULT 197 

is my only support, and that I have no temple or country but 
in his heart." 

Leaving Nohant in May they journeyed leisurely to Italy. 
In Lyon, where Franz had arranged to give a concert, they 
ran across the poet Louis de Ronchaud whom Marie describes 
as "the most devoted and tender of our friends," and at 
Saint-Point they stayed a few days with Lamartine. He enter 
tained them royally in his sumptuous chateau and listened 
rapturously to Liszt's playing. He was so impressed by 
Marie's beauty that he wrote a poem under the inspiration of 
their visit. 

They reached Lake Como in September and rented a villa 
at Bellaggio where they stayed three months. It was a second 
honeymoon. They spent their days basking in the sun and 
their evenings holding each other's hands. Her journal of 
those days is saturated and bubbling over with happiness. 
"Evening has arrived. The dark outlines of the mountains 
around us form a barrier which seems to forbid our thoughts 
going any further. Why, in fact, should we seek to go be 
yond? What is there in the world but work, and contempla 
tion, and love?" "Festoons of amorous vines twine around 
each other this evening and their purple grapes hang lightly 
over our balcony." 

One day they went to a fete in a neighboring village where 
she saw young girls bringing their baskets of fruit to the 
altar to receive a blessing, and her thoughts went back to the 
ancient sacrifices with their offerings to Venus. 



198 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

Franz's twenty-sixth birthday occurred while they were at 
Bellaggio. They celebrated it by a donkey-ride up the moun 
tain, and in the evening fished by torchlight. "Sometimes I 
am astonished to see him so gay and happy in the solitude 
that is about us. ... He, whose spirit is so communicative, 
whose occupations have always been in the midst of things, 
an artist, that is to say a man of sympathy, of emotion, of 
fancy, now compresses all his faculties into the narrow frame 
of a tete-a-tete. A poor piano, a few books, the conversation 
of a serious woman, are all he asks." 

In the ecstasy of her emotion, she sees in Italian art the 
counterpart of her joy. Christianity had done all it could to 
stifle art. "A religion which proscribes love as a shameful 
weakness, how can it help art, which sees divinity in all ma 
terial things and by so doing enlarges men's hearts? Polythe 
ism, which exalted and saw divinity in the passions, that is 
to say in life, was it not more in sympathy with art than is 
Christianity with its perpetual summons to an unknown mys 
terious life where there are no material things? ... It was 
not in sackcloth and ashes that the artists of the Renaissance 
found their inspiration. It was in the arms of his young 
mistresses, it was in the ecstasy of love, that Raphael dreamt 
of the madonnas before whom all the world kneels in admira 
tion. It was in the festivities of a sumptuous court that Leo 
nardo, the favorite of princes, conceived the plan of the Last 
Supper. 5 * 

Liszt responded to her cogitations, and compared love to 
the flowers^ which wilt under the piercing rays of the sun. 



MARIE d'AGOULT 199 

"Love Is so strong that it crushes the heart. Under the inspira 
tion of love the heart withers up and becomes a divine emo 
tion. The moon gets its light from the sun, and gives a poetic, 
mysterious color to everything; but art gets its light only from 
the divine effulgence of love." 

Marie did not let herself be carried into fantasies quite so 
deep as that, but, no less than Franz, she stood firm for the 
holiness of love. "When two rivers come together, amazed 
to find their current is no longer smooth, they cpiarrel and 
stir up mud and gravel from their beds. Then, fatigued by 
useless strife, they patch up their quarrels and flow peacefully 
to the sea. So two human beings, when they seek to unite their 
destinies, become ashamed of the resistance which their pas 
sions, their faults, and their virtues had at first caused them 
to offer. Our wrong inclinations have become exposed, for 
our sufferings have been given voice, and our complaints 
have so added to our sufferings that at last the deep love that 
brought us together outweighs all other considerations, and 
our two lives, indissolubly united, flow on in peace as if 
reflected from heaven." 

Here, on the twenty-fifth of December, Marie gave her 
lover another child. They called it Cosima in memory of the 
happy days they had passed at Lake Como. As soon after as 
Marie was able to go about again they left the sunny slopes 
of Bellaggio and took up their abode in Milan. It was with 
deep forebodings that Marie saw her honeymoon reach its 
end. Much as she gloried in her lover's genius she knew she 
could not hold him when the applause of admiring multitudes 



200 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

was ringing in his ears. Her only hope was that the two chil 
dren whom she had borne him would prevent his straying 
far. For a time her hope was fulfilled. The concerts which he 
gave in Milan were always before crowded houses, and the 
leaders of society showered him with attentions; but both he 
and Marie found those with whom they associated unable to 
appreciate the highest forms of musical composition. It was 
a relief to them, when the winter was over, to escape to 
Venice. 

In Venice occurred a series of events which led inevitably 
to the final break. She has left us a brief memoir of the 
episode. One day Franz came to her with a newspaper telling 
of an inundation of the Danube which was causing misery 
to the people along its banks. His sympathy for his fellow- 
countrymen was so aroused that he told her he was going to 
Vienna to give a concert and turn the proceeds over to the 
suffering people. "It will take only eight days," he said; 
c mat do you think?" She replied, "It is a noble thought"; 
but to herself she said, "Others could succor the poor, but 
who will aid me, alone and sick?" He started the next day, 
leaving her in Venice in the care of a young count whom he 
knew. The eight days slipped by and Franz did not return, 
but he sent newspapers which told of the marvellous success 
he was having. In her journal she writes, "It was beyond any 
thing ever before heard of in Vienna. He was the equal of 
Mozart and Beethoven. Crowned heads asked to hear him in 
their family circles. A rain of gold and flowers fell at his 
feet, and at the end of his first concert the audience carried 



MARIE d'AGOULT 201 

him off in triumph, great noblemen joining in the procession. 
Magnificent presents were piled up on his table. He received 
most flattering offers to write an opera, to direct concerts." 
Then came letters from him, short, and, as it seemed to Marie, 
cold. He wrote as if it were nothing, mentioning names of 
great people as if that did not amount to anything, but there 
was a false ring in all he wrote, entirely out of harmony with 
all he had been boasting to Marie about his disdain of the 
world and his determination to live in seclusion with her. 
Fifteen days passed and his letters said nothing about return 
ing. His letters became more infrequent and names of various 
ladies appeared in them. One was on paper with a lady's 
seal on it, and it seemed to Marie to be dictated by a woman. 

Marie was so upset that she fell ill and had to go to bed. 
The friend in whose care she had been placed wrote to Franz 
begging him to come back at once. This brought an answer 
urging Marie to go to Vienna. She fainted and for several 
days lay between life and death. When she recovered she 
wrote to Franz, c< You ask me to join you. It is six hundred 
miles to Vienna and I can scarcely walk from my bed to my 
chair. You say you cannot come to me. You leave to another 
the care of my poor life. If I died you would have to come, 
or would you leave to others the duty of closing my eyes and 
placing a stone on my grave? Franz, Franz, is it you who 
has thus abandoned me?" 

That letter brought him back. She fell into his arms with 
the words: "Pray God I may love you as I have done in the 
past." But she saw that his whole attitude had changed. He 



202 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

told her that he had made a great deal of money and had 
given it to the poor. In two years, he said, he could lay up a 
fortune, and he needed to do so for their daughter Blandine. 
Marie must now go back to Paris, reinstate herself with her 
family and re-establish her position, Marie found him hard, 
dry, ironic. He even asked her to accept as a lover the young 
man who had been looking after her. She said to him, "Let 
us try again." 

So they patched things up, and resolved to try again. He 
went to Genoa and rented a magnificent villa, beautifully 
equipped, and for a while they lived there, but it was not at all 
to her taste. They did not stay there long. In August they were 
in Lugano, then in Milan, Bologna, Florence, and finally in 
Rome where they remained till the summer of 1839. There 
Marie gave birth to another child a boy. 

Franz was now wholly out of control. He was electrifying 
everyone by his marvellous gifts as a pianist, while Marie 
was at home caring for her three babies. Money from his 
concerts was pouring in so fast that he did not know what to 
do with it. The city of Bonn was raising a subscription for a 
statue of Beethoven. Bartolini who was to make the statue 
wrote to Liszt that the money was coming in too slowly, that 
the marble alone would cost one hundred and sixty thousand 
francs. Liszt wrote back that he would furnish the entire sum. 
He told Marie that he had made engagements to play all 
over Germany and that she could not keep up with his life. She 
must develop her own talents. "My talent," she replied, "is 
my love, my desire to please you." 



MARIE d'AGOULT 203 

He admitted that he had been unfaithful to her, and said he 
should probably be so again. A man is always liable to break 
his head against a wall, but he should be on his guard in 
future. 

On the margin of this record we find in his handwriting 
these words: "You have a good memory for things that I 
have said, but perhaps you don't remember so well what you 
have said at various times. For my part, I have not forgotten, 
though I have tried to do so. When you reflect upon it you 
will find many things explained which now seem to you inex 
plicable because of the misunderstanding which has always 
existed between us." 

The fact was, they had now reached the stage in their ro 
mantic adventure when each was holding himself or herself 
in reserve. They were playing the game of love, but their 
hearts were not w T holly in the game. He was restless and 
wanted to get away. He felt that she was tying him down and 
preventing him from gaining the applause to which his genius 
entitled him. She realized that there was reason for his so 
feeling, and it made her miserable. 

"It sometimes seems to me as if I did not know how to 
live. Ten years of suffering, of passion, of contact with the 
world, must have meant something to me, and now here I am 
with my first wrinkles, and white hair covering my temples." 

She received a letter when he was away for a few days' 
visit. "A letter from him from Padua. His handwriting always 
causes me an inconceivable emotion, and his protestations of 
love come now as a surprise and fill my heart with rapture." 



204 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

January 1st, 1839, at Florence. "Noon, sun. He has ar 
rived. It seems as if I could not open my heart wide enough to 
take in all the joy that comes to me." Franz, too, felt his heart 
expand, and he jotted down these words: "I now have time 
to withdraw into myself, to think over the things that are in 
my heart, as Marie does. Like her I must listen long, long, to 
the voices that are in my heart, the echoes of her love." 

Still, they were now talking of the separation that they 
both knew was at hand. "I have reproached him for his calm 
ness in talking of our separation." 

"Projects of Franz to consecrate four months of each year 
to his affairs, and live the rest of the time alone with me." 

In Rome she writes, "I have never seen him so animated, 
so affectionate." And Franz said to her, "The three years I 
have passed with you have made a man of me." 

Yet she could not shake off the feeling that she was ruining 
his life. "It was blind egotism that caused me to attach my 
self to him. . * . And he seems to be pained because he can 
give me so little joy." 

In August, 1839, it had been agreed that she should go 
back to Paris and try to take up her old life again. In Octo 
ber, 1839, they parted. He accompanied her as far as Livorno, 
handed her a bouquet of flowers, and repeated the words be 
had said to her on July 30th, 1833, "You are not the woman 
that I need, but you are the one I want." She went to Paris to 
stay for a while with bis mother, and he started for Vienna 
to begin his triumphal journey to all the capitals of Europe. 



MARIE d'AGOULT 205 

He was near but not quite at the end of his liaison with 
Marie. When he was in the midst of his triumphs in London, 
Marie went over to visit him. One of his friends who thought 
it was all over between them asked Franz about her and he 
replied, "If madame d'Agoult should ask me to throw myself 
out of that window, I should do so without a moment's hesi 



tation." 



That was heroic, but it does not sound like ardent love. In 
truth, the fire was almost extinct, and Franz was merely play 
ing with the embers. Nothing but a flicker was left, but before 
it went out entirely Franz succeeded in fanning it once more 
into the semblance of a feeble flame. A ruined castle on an 
island in the Rhine appealed to his poetic fancy, and he leased 
it and wrote to Marie, "We have some years ahead of us yet. 
Did I say 'yet'? It seems to me the years ahead of us ought 
to be the only good, pure, tender, peaceful, indefinite years. 
If my doctrines are abominable, as you say, my dreams are 
sublime. . . . You were not deceived, Marie. We are not 
masters of each other. If we haven't acquired happiness, we 
may have acquired something better/* 

Marie waited not a moment to hurry to his new abode. She 
brought the children with her and they all lived there together 
through the summer. But it was no use. The great virtuoso 
had sources of inspiration other than the idyllic romanticism 
that she so persistently endeavored to weave about their lives. 
She returned to Paris, and he departed for Berlin to enter 
upon the period of his greatest professional success. 



206 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

Not long after, she heard that he had attached himself to a 
famous dancer. She gritted her teeth, and jotted down in her 
journal these pathetic lines: 

"No, you will not hear from her proud lips. 
In bidding you good-hy, a reproof or a regret. 
There is no sting and no remorse for your light heart 

In this adieu. 

Perhaps you think that she, too, maddened by harsh rumor, 
Has forgotten the tears of yesterday and with fickle smile 
Has broken her plighted troth 

And passed along her way. 

You will never learn from her that she has not forgot, 
That on the solemn journey into eternal night 
Departing from her lover 

Her love remains." 

She did not falsify when she declared that love remained. 
Her romance the only one she ever had was at an end, but 
the sentiment which gave it birth she carried to the grave. In 
1845 she wrote in her journal, "I love him more deeply than 
I dare admit to myself." Again, "Eternity of love. People 
think I have ceased to love him. Some even think that my love 
has been succeeded by hatred. Profound error. The same 
ideal always." In later years, when she had made a place for 
herself in the world of literature, she looked back upon her 
days with Liszt as the momentous period of her life. "It is to 
him that I owe all," she said. "He inspired me with a great 



MARIE d'AGOULT 207 

love. ... I hope lie will never feel regret or remorse for what 
he has made me suffer. Had he been what he should have 
been, I should have remained with him, and my name would 
never have emerged from obscurity." Certainly, so far as 
she was concerned, her escapade with Liszt caused no re 
morse. She recognized the necessity of its coming to an end 
because their natures did not permit them to pursue the same 
careers. He was an artist and could not have been expected to 
lead the prosaic life which her temperament required. But her 
romantic exaltation had been so deep, and, as she says, so 
pure, that nothing could ever make her regret what she had 
done. 

After Liszt passed out of her life she felt as if her only prop 
was gone. Her mother had ceased communicating with her, 
and her husband apparently made no effort toward reconcili 
ation. Her feelings were such that she could not ask to be 
forgiven, and she had no wish to renew relations with the 
frivolous society from which she had fled. Her associations 
with scholars in Geneva and in Italy had turned her mind 
toward serious studies. The taste for literature which she had 
acquired would have made the life of a society woman utterly 
distasteful to her. When in Geneva she had published, un 
signed, a couple of short articles, one an essay on Victor 
Hugo, the other a translation of a book by Rousseau. Neither 
of these articles had attracted much attention, but they had 
given her some confidence in her ability to write. Now that 
all romance was banished from her life, she determined to 
devote the rest of her days to literary work. 



208 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

One of the first persons whom she met after her return to 
Paris in 1839 was Delphine Gay. They met one evening after 
the opera. Delphine introduced herself and asked when she 
could call. She said she wanted Marie to meet Lamartine and 
Victor Hugo, and perhaps Theophile Gautier. A few days 
later Marie called on Delphine and met there Delphine's 
husband, mile de Girardin, who impressed Marie as a keen 
observer, rather chary of conversation, though that caused 
little embarrassment, as his wife was an incessant talker. Not 
long after, Marie invited them to dinner, and Girardin 
seemed to take a great deal of interest in what she was plan 
ning to do. When he learned that she wanted to write, he 
offered to publish in La Presse anything that she cared to 
send him. She said she had been writing a critical article on 
some of Delaroche's paintings. He asked to see it and on 
looking it over remarked that it was excellent, but said that 
she must sign it. She told him she could not use a name which 
belonged to her husband as much as to herself. So they 
talked over a pseudonym and finally agreed upon Daniel 
Stern, the name under which thereafter all her writings were 
published. The article appeared in La Presse and created 
quite a stir. To criticize the most popular painter of the day 
was an audacious thing to do, but it caused a heated contro 
versy which increased the circulation of La Presse and led 
to Marie's becoming the regular art critic for that journal. 
From this modest beginning she was led to undertake more 
original work and in the next three years she published three 
novels, none of them of importance, but in one of them, 



MARIE d'AGOULT 209 

Nelida, published in 1846, she portrayed, in a way, the story 
of her relations with Liszt and gave expression to her belief 
in the right of women to follow the dictate of their hearts. 
She harbored no illusion about the superiority of man. The 
first revolution, she boasts, was in the Garden of Eden, and 
it was the work of a woman. The first man was content with 
the passive felicity that God had prepared for him, while 
the first woman obeyed the voice within her and cried out 
for liberty. "Risking all, she seized the forbidden fruit and 
led Adam to rebel." 

Then, in 1847, Marie turned to more serious subjects and 
wrote her Essai sur la liberte. When she wrote this essay "her 
moral state," as one of her best friends said, "was that of a 
shipwrecked mariner thrown on a desert island, far from 
succor, with no resource beyond his own talent and labor. 
All that she had once possessed w T as gone except her liberty. 
The book was a portrayal of her heart long suppressed and 
afraid to expand, a heart that was measuring its own palpi 



tations." 



In the preface to this book she states that she felt the need 
of an outlet for her intellectual suffering, as Nelida had been 
the outlet for her heart's anguish. She attributes all her un- 
happiness to the injustice of the laws which treat women as 
inferior to men. The result, she says, is to make women hypo 
crites and their lives arid. In the lower classes, woman is a 
servant in the upper a gracious, frivolous slave. Woman is 
expected to have two virtues both contrary to nature 
chastity and resignation; and as both those virtues are un- 



210 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

natural she is early taught to deceive. She is forced to become 
a coquette, seeking to inspire love without sharing it, exciting 
passion without satisfying it. In forbidding divorce the law 
claims for human beings what is a prerogative of God. He 
is permanent, but men and women change. If men's and 
women's characters always remained the same, there might 
be reason in requiring the marriage tie to be unbreakable. 
But one or the other may so change that you may find yourself 
married to a person entirely different from the one with 
whom you entered into the marriage pact. 

Two years later she published her Esquisses morales, a 
collection of moral reflections somewhat similar to the 
Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius. Emerson liked this book so 
much that when he was in Paris he went to see her that he 
might express in person his admiration for her ideas. The 
truth is, the Esquisses gave her opportunity to reveal her 
character better than any other of her writings. She was es 
sentially a moralist, and even when her passion was most 
exuberant it was always mingled with a strain of serious 
reflection. 

Neither of these books brought financial reward, but they 
led to her becoming intimate with advanced thinkers and to 
her acquiring an interest in politics. "I was thrilled," she 
says, "by the idea of a republic, but I was never a fanatic. I 
had neither the traditions nor the language of those who fa 
vored a republic. I loved the hierarchy. My sentiments were 
for the humble, for the popular virtues, for peasants, for 
working people; but I had no illusions about the character of 



MARIE d'AGOULT 211 

their work." Holding such views, she lived through the revo 
lution of 1848 with conflicting emotions and after it was 
over she published a detailed history of its causes. This book 
was considered by her contemporaries as her chief literary 
performance. Her later works were a drama, Jeanne d'Arc, 
another on Marie Stuart, another on Jacques Cceur none of 
them very important and an imaginary dialogue between 
Goethe and Dante. Along with these she contributed articles 
to the literary journals, chiefly on matters of art. 

During all these years of literary activity Marie seldom 
spoke of Liszt. The three children she had borne him were 
taken from her and grew up under the artistic surroundings 
of their famous sire. Both of the daughters married in Ger 
many, one becoming the w r ife of the great composer, Richard 
Wagner. The days which Marie had spent with Liszt came 
more and more to stand out in her memory as a glorious 
dream. Her friends made no allusion to him, though they 
were all aware he continued to be the main object of her 
thoughts. One only could not be excluded from the tragedy 
the person who had been most intimately associated with 
their love. That person, of course, was George Sand. 

Wlien Marie came back to Paris in 1839 her first thought 
had been to seek the companionship of Sand. That they were 
both the objects of scandal gave them a common tie, and 
Sand's fortitude in braving contumely gave Marie hope that 
she, too, might bear aloft her head. She realized perfectly 
that the enthusiasm with which their friendship had started 
could not be renewed. At their last sojourn together at Nohant 



212 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

they had begun to tire of each other, and, though they corre 
sponded after Marie went to Italy, the letters gradually grew 
more rare. They still indulged in terms of endearment, hut 
it had grown clear to both of them that their hearts were no 
longer beating in unison. Marie had begun to bore Sand by 
her constant idealization of love, not very welcome when 
Sand was embarking on another adventure this time with 
Chopin whom Marie had introduced to her. In a moment of 
exasperation Marie had hinted to a woman friend that she 
was indignant at the light-hearted manner in which Sand 
passed from one lover to another. Marie's animadversions 
were carried to Sand's ears, and, though it must be admitted 
she had grown a little callous to such charges, it angered her 
to have such charges uttered by a friend. The correspondence 
between them ceased, and in March, 1839, Sand wrote to a 
friend, "I don't know on what foot to dance with her. I have 
owed her a letter for six or eight months." A month or so 
later she had fully made up her mind. "I shall not write to 
madame d'Agoult," she says, "I am not in the habit of mak 
ing a semblance of friendship. I shall always be ready to 
serve her and oblige her, for I think she is unhappy. But you 
may be sure I shall never be effusive." 

Marie probably did not realize how deep was Sand's re 
sentment, for in June, 1839, she wrote to Sand asking her to 
come and visit her in Italy. Sand did not go. In fact, she 
never received the letter. But her feelings were expressed in 
a letter which she wrote to a friend in September, 1839. "I 



MARIE d'AGOULT 213 

have absolutely decided to end all friendly relations with this 
disagreeable, ungrateful, and false person. She charges Cho 
pin, the friend of Liszt, with having detached me from herself 
and Liszt." Sand added, however, that Marie was admirable 
in a role of dignity; that she was infinitely intelligent, gra 
cious, and a good companion; that her conversation and 
manners were seductive and made people love her until they 
knew her. 

Such being Sand's sentiments, Marie's efforts to renew 
their friendship came, of course, to naught. It never could 
have been permanent anyway. Their natures were entirely 
different. It has been truly said that Sand had a genius for 
love, but no capacity to hold her lovers. Her love was always 
subjective rather than objective. It was nothing but her ex 
traordinary emotional vitality that made her seek lovers. She 
once said that she could not conceive how anyone could get 
along without love. In describing her relations with Chopin 
she declared, "We did not deceive each other, we simply 
yielded to the blast which rushed by, carrying us both to 
some other than an earthly region for a few moments. But it 
was none the less necessary to alight on solid ground again 
after the heavenly meeting of our lips and that flight into the 
empyrean* We poor birds have wings, but our nests are on 
the ground, and when the voices of the angelic hosts call us 
aloft the cries of our families tie us to the earth. I have no 
wish to abandon myself to passion though there is a furnace 
smouldering in my heart which at times is overpowering." 



214 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

Unlike Marie, Sand had been educated from childhood to 
defy conventions. She cared nothing about public opinion, 
and claimed the right to conduct her private life in any way 
she chose. Sincere, as she always was, she never expected 
that her love would last, or at any rate that it would not be 
interrupted by developments which she could not control. 

All this was utterly incomprehensible to Marie. She re 
garded love as an inspiration from on high, permanent as 
the source from which it came. So that, much as she admired 
Sand's genius, and eager as she was to get Sand's literary 
help, she came in time to see that the gap between them was 
too wide for her to close. In fact, it grew wider with the 
growth of time. After Marie's salon became securely estab 
lished she made a protegee of Juliette Lamber, a talented 
young woman who was striving to become a writer and who 
tried her best to smooth the troubled waters. She found it 
impossible. Marie said to her, "George Sand's lovers are to 
her a piece of chalk with which she scratches on the black 
board. When she has finished she crushes the chalk under her 
foot and there remains nothing but the dust which she sweeps 
away." She also told Juliette that she had given her whole 
life and soul to Liszt and Sand had tried to steal him away. 
Whether this was so is hard to say, but at any rate he was a 
close friend of Sand long after he had passed out of Marie's 
life. In 1850 Sand wrote, "He was my friend, but he has 
never been my master." 

Bitter as was Marie's animosity, she was always eager to 



MARIE d'AGOULT 215 

recognize literary skill, and she prefaced her novel Julien 
with a dedication to Sand which closed with these words: 
"We have wanted to love each other." Twenty years later she 
wrote to Sand a conciliatory letter, and Sand replied, "Thanks 
for the few words from you, my dear Marie. It is very nice of 
you to want to complete the happiness of these days for me 
by adding to it a memory of you, and your congratulations. 
When one has once really been fond of a person, he never 
leaves off caring even during long years when it seems that 
the affection has been forgotten. I no longer remember very 
well what happened to part us. I live in the present always 
now, and in my heart to-day you would find nothing which 
could grieve or disturb you." 

In spite of the fundamental difference between these 
women, they had enough in common to cause some people to 
regard them as the product of a single mould. Long after they 
had parted company a distinguished writer of morals pub 
lished a book denouncing their views of matrimony and point 
ing to their conduct as a national disgrace. To view the matter 
in any other light is, of course, impossible. Marie's reticence 
through all the period of her salon makes it clear she could 
not offer any just excuse. All she could do was to bear in 
silence the punishment for her escapade. As Sand said, she 
was an unhappy woman. Her tastes were always in conflict 
with her thoughts. By nature an aristocrat, her intellectual 
processes made of her a democrat. 

When the shadows were lengthening she jotted down under 



216 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

the heading of "Last Thoughts" an analysis of the emotions 
that had wrecked her life. She says her nature was composed 
of two irreconcilable elements an intellectual thirst to 
know everything and an imperious need of loving and of be 
ing loved. Perhaps that was as good a characterization as she 
could think of to account for the incongruity of her acts. 



JULJETTg LAMBEfl 



WITH Juliette Lamber we come down almost to the present 
day. While still a child she aspired to literary fame, and to 
the end of her long career there was charm in everything she 
wrote. But she will be remembered chiefly for her influence 
in shaping the politics of France. 



217 



*: 



L 



JA GRANDE FRANgAISE, as one of her contempora 
ries called her, was born in the days of Louis-Philippe and 
died toward the close of the World War. She lived through 
four revolutions and saw her country invaded twice. She was 
a valiant patriot during the siege of Paris, and was all her life 
a leading advocate of the establishment of the French re 
public. Her talent as a writer and her fascinating personality 
brought her into intimate relations with all the great per 
sonages of her day and enabled her to exert an influence on 
politics and literature more effective than that of any other 
woman of her times. 

2X8 




JULIETTE LAMBER 



JULIETTE LAMBER 219 

Her father was a physician in a little town of Picardie, 
but she was brought up by her maternal grandmother, a 
woman of determined character between whom and the child's 
father there was constant strife. Juliette grew up, therefore, 
in an atmosphere of controversy which kept her mind alert. 
While her father was pouring into her ears a denunciation 
of the monarchy, in the eyes of her grandmother democratic 
notions were at the root of every evil. As to literature her 
grandmother spent most of her time reading novels of the 
day. Her father, on the other hand, could see no merit in 
any writings that did not come from ancient Greece. Which 
of her advisers contributed chiefly to formulate her principles 
it would be hard to say. As she grew up she came more and 
more to share her father's enthusiasm for the democracy of 
ancient Greece. On the other hand, her grandmother's in 
fluence kindled in her a strong liking for the modern writers 
of romance. 

When she was sixteen her grandmother selected for her a 
husband whom she abhorred. He was a Parisian lawyer of 
rather meager attainments who dazzled them all with the 
prospect of giving them a foothold in the great metropolis. 
That turned out later to be nothing but a bait, and the first 
three years of Juliette's married life were spent in Soissons. 

These three years gave Juliette opportunity to test her 
literary skill. It was a period when women were coming to 
be recognized in the intellectual world, and she was eager to 
become an active participant in that movement. So far as we 
can detect, there was no thought at that time of interesting 



220 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

herself in politics. It seemed to her that her talent lay in the 
line of imaginative writing. Like most young persons 
ambitious to shine in literature, she seems to have spent 
much of her time in scribbling verses, but only one of her 
poems, it appears, got into print, 

Not till after she took up her abode in Paris did she think 
seriously of literature as a means of livelihood. It came 
about in this way. A contributor to one of the periodicals 
had declared that there was not a pretty woman in France 
who didn't use crinoline. As she had never adopted the pre 
vailing style she addressed a letter to the publisher in which 
she informed him that there was one of his readers who 
could truthfully challenge the contributor's assertion; and 
she went on to deny the aspersions tbat had been directed 
against her sex. The letter, bearing the signature "Juliette," 
was printed in full. Her heart was filled with pride and in 
her joy she cried out, "Grandmother, I shall be a writer." 

Still pursuing her flair for poetry she now joined a club 
of poets where the members gathered frequently to listen 
to the reading of the members' verses, and through the influ 
ence of this club she met the famous Beranger. He took a 
fatherly interest in her and read some of the things she had 
composed. But he could see nothing in what she showed him 
to justify high praise and he told her frankly he thought she 
was pursuing an idle dream. "You will never be a poet," 
he said, "though you may some day become a writer." 

Two years later occurred the event which brought her into 
relations with George Sand and Marie d'Agoult and placed 



JULIETTE LAMBER 221 

her permanently in the ranks of those who were fighting for 
the extension of women's rights. When Proudhon published 
his book denouncing the two women whom Juliette admired 
more than any others of her sex, he had the effrontery to call 
it La justice dans la revolution et dans 1'eglise. He could 
have used no phrase more suited to kindle Juliette's ire. 
Justice was the very thing, in her opinion, which women did 
not have. She determined to compose a refutation of Proud- 
hon's arguments and to use his perverted sense of justice as 
the basis of her reply. 

In this book, the first that came from Juliette's pen, we 
see the same quality of vigorous argument that is found in 
all her subsequent writings. Though only twenty-two, she had 
made up her mind on certain problems, and so far as those 
problems were concerned her convictions were so firm that 
no amount of argument could make her waver. 

In championing the cause of women her views were not 
subversive of the existing order. She was not a militant advo 
cate of woman suffrage. Her thought was directed mainly to 
increasing the individuality of her sex. Proudhon's error, as 
she saw it, was that he placed too high a value on brute 
strength. History showed, in her opinion, that civilization was 
not dependent wholly on the use of force. It was through 
intellect chiefly that the world progressed and there was no 
sufficient evidence that women were inferior in intellect to 
men. That women had not excelled as intellectual leaders 
was merely because they had been given no encouragement 
to work. The learned professions should be open to them. 



222 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

They should be given opportunity to exert an influence on 
public affairs. 

Juliette's little book on woman's right to recognition 
brought her some favorable comment from the press, but the 
main benefit which she derived was that it gave her access 
to the salon of Marie d'Agoult. Twenty years had passed 
since that great lady had renounced the folly of her youth. 
Her stately salon had become the place where all the ad 
vanced thinkers of the Second Empire were wont to gather. 
At these meetings all shades of thought were represented, 
and discussions covered a wide range. Much of the discus 
sion was on politics, a subject on which the "little girl from 
the country," as she called herself, had not yet formulated 
her ideas. But she listened with rapture to all the great men 
had to say. In later years, when politics had become the 
central feature of her life, she looked back to these discus 
sions as the source of all her inspiration. 

Meantime her natural impulses were carrying her along 
another path. She had not yet reached the time of life when 
she could get real sustenance in the learned atmosphere of 
Marie's salon. Paris at that period was at the acme of its 
fete galante, and Juliette with her lovely face and buoyant 
spirit soon found herself in a whirl of gayety. One of her 
intimates was a retired actress who had once been hailed 
as a rival of the great Rachel. Together these two women 
were constant frequenters of the theater. One evening she 
went to a fashionable ball and made so deep an impression 
on the famous Meyerbeer that for several months he sent a 



JULIETTE LAMBER 223 

bouquet of violets to her every day. That may have been 
wholly a bit of gallantry but Juliette was passionately fond 
of music and it is possible that the great composer thought 
he detected in her a talent kindred to his own. 

All this was not merely the exuberance of youth. She loved 
people, and had an extraordinary aptitude for making 
friends. The death of her grandparents shortly after her mar 
riage had provided her with a modest income which enabled 
her to live in moderate comfort. She had a daughter Alice, 
born about fifteen months after her marriage, and she would 
have been genuinely happy but for the constant dissensions 
between herself and her domineering, pettifogging husband. 

In spite of the multiplicity of her social engagements she 
did not let herself be led aw^ay from her ambition to be a 
writer. In 1860 she published two books under the 
pseudonym which she used throughout her life. Her maiden 
name 'was Lambert and she simply dropped the final letter, 
calling herself Juliette Lamber. Of these two books one was 
entitled Mon village. The idea, as well as the name, was 
suggested by George Sand. It consisted of imaginary dia 
logues among the people of the little town in Picardie where 
her father lived. While it gives a faithful picture of the joys 
and sorrows of simple folk, she wove into their conversations 
a bit of sound philosophy which she had acqpiired through 
close association with village people. The other book, Le 
mandarin, is an amusing sketch of a Chinaman's experiences 
in Paris, and it gave the writer a chance to poke fun at some 
of the incongruities of Parisian life. 



224 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

The revenue from these books her husband insisted on 
appropriating to himself. Under the French law he had that 
right, hut Juliette was so indignant at his selfishness that she 
determined to leave him and went with her daughter to live in 
the little town where she had been brought up and where her 
parents now resided. In 1867 her husband died, after they 
had been separated seven years. 

Her next literary venture was her Recits d'une paysanne, 
published in 1862. Nothing that she had hitherto written 
exhibited her qualities better than this little book. It is a 
collection of stories about peasant children and it gives 
abundant evidence of the writer's kindly heart, of her joyous 
spirit, and of her genuine interest in the tastes and feelings 
of humble people. One would never suspect in perusing these 
tales of peasant life that the author had just come from the 
fashionable circles of Parisian society. 

In the midst of this literary work she was suddenly taken 
ill. The doctors thought she was threatened with pulmonary 
consumption and ordered her to spend the winter at Cannes. 
At first she did not like Cannes but after a while she enjoyed 
it so much that in the following winter she persuaded her 
father to buy a little plot of ground at Golf e- Juan and build 
her a villa there. This villa she called The Briars, and it 
continued for many years to be her winter home. It was 
here, in 1863, that she wrote her little sketch, Autour du 
Grand-Pin. 

In 1864, on the suggestion of Marie d'Agoult, she estab- 



JULIETTE LAMBER 225 

listed her first salon in Paris. Marie told her, and no one 
better than Marie could advise, that to establish a salon she 
must have at her beck and call twenty men and five women a 
number that Juliette easily could command. Other instruc 
tions were to combine simplicity with elegance, to appear 
serene and confident, and to let those whom she had gathered 
around her feel that responsibility for the salon's success 
depended on them. Juliette's was to be the little summer salon 
when the grand salon of Marie was closed. And so Juliette 
came back to Paris, and opened her salon in the rue de 
Rivoli, choosing that site, as she jocosely tells us, because it 
was in the rue de Rivoli that all revolutions had their birth. 
In 1868, one year after the death of her first husband, 
she married Edmond Adam, a banker and stanch republi 
can, several years her senior, whom she called "the 
chivalrous Adam." His infatuation had begun six years 
earlier, when he first saw her at a concert and asked to be 
introduced. Having recently separated from her husband she 
resented his attentions and withdrew from the room. When 
her book Mon village came out, he wrote and offered his 
congratulations, to which she returned a cold reply. But he 
was not to be discouraged. He let no opportunity escape to 
win her affections, and in the end prevailed. On the day after 
she learned of her husband's death they became engaged. 
Marie d'Agoult attempted to dissuade her. "An intelligent 
woman," she said, "should remain free and mistress of her 
own thoughts." "But I have greater need of happiness than 



226 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

of freedom," replied Juliette. This was the end of the friend 
ship between these self-willed women a sad ending to a 
communion which had meant so much to hoth of them. 

So far as Juliette was concerned, her marriage to Edmond 
Adam brought into her life nothing but happiness. He proved 
to be a man of unswerving patriotism as well as a devoted 
husband. It was not so much love as admiration that held 
them together. She always addressed him as Adam and felt 
unbounded respect for his ideals. In return he appreciated 
the brilliancy of her mind and the accuracy of her judgment. 
Immediately after their marriage he begged her to give up 
The Briars and live at his villa Le Grand-Pin which was near 
by. He said he did not want to be known as monsieur Lamber. 
But he finally yielded and said to her he could understand 
that she did not want to give up a house which was built by 
her personal effort and come and live in one which was built 
only by his money. When they returned to Paris, however, she 
yielded to his wishes and moved her salon from the rue de 
Rivoli to the boulevard Poissonniere, and established her 
self in the Maison Sallandrouze which was directly opposite 
tis favorite cafe. 

During all the years of Juliette's intimacy with Marie 
d'Agoult she had kept up an earnest correspondence with 
George Sand, but they had never met face to face. With 
laudable self-denial Sand had refused to establish a friend 
ship with her youthful admirer lest such action should stand in 
the way of Juliette's intimacy with Marie. That impediment 
was now removed, and Juliette hastened to grasp the happi- 



JULIETTE LAMBER 227 

ness for which she had been longing ever since she wrote her 
eulogy of Sand. They met at Sand's apartment and sealed a 
bond of friendship which lasted till the famous novelist was 
carried to the grave. It was an alliance of two persons totally 
different in character but whose ideals were the same. 
Juliette was an avowed pagan. Sand claimed to be a believer 
in the national faith. But both were worshippers of nature, 
unfettered by tradition, lovers of the beautiful. That was 
enough to hold them together in spite of the diversity in their 
modes of life. 

Juliette has left us a graphic picture of their first meeting. 
When their intimacy began, Sand had reached the age of 
sixty-three. Her turbulent days were over. Instead of daring 
romances she was writing stories of peasant life. From a 
literary standpoint she and Juliette were plowing in the 
same field. It was Sand who had put into Juliette's mind the 
idea of Mon village. So when Juliette made her first call on 
Sand she was confident they would prove to be kindred 
spirits. She was not mistaken. Her heart throbbed with excite 
ment as she entered Sand's apartment. Sand was sitting at 
her table rolling a cigarette. She did not rise but motioned 
to Juliette to be seated. Neither of them spoke, and Juliette 
was so overcome with emotion that she burst into tears. Sand 
threw her arms around her young visitor, who opened the 
conversatiqp by recounting the story of her breach with 
Marie d'Agoult. Sand ejaculated that it was incompre 
hensible. 

A few days later they went together to the theater, after 



228 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

which Sand asked Juliette to accompany her to her apartment 
and have a talk. "I want my life to be of service to you, my 
adopted child," she said. And she gave that night a more 
detailed explanation of her strange career than is to be found 
in anything else that is recorded. "I have accepted love as it 
came to me, but have never sought it. ... In my youth I lived 
in an artificial world where everyone was the echo of every 
one else, when all wanted to feel, love, and think differently 
from the common people. We lost our foothold in striving to 
swim where the water was too deep. . . . To-day, my child, 
the life which I and the men of my generation lived is no 
longer possible. There is left no trace of the artistic caste 
which succeeded the military caste and which in turn suc 
ceeded the aristocratic caste. . , . Mingling with the masses, 
men have lost our foolish passion for ideals. They suffer 
less than we did, for they have fewer illusions. . . , Are they 
happier than we were? I cannot say. But our chief fault was 
that we allowed sensuality to enter into our striving for the 
ideal." 

This talk made a deep impression on Juliette. "From that 
evening/* she says, "my great maternal friend has been my 
guide. 5 ' 

In the winter of 1868 her "great friend" stayed with her 
for a month at The Briars. There Sand was at her best. All 
her good traits stood out. As Juliette said, "To live with 
George Sand was to realize how simple she was, always 
satisfied, always thinking of others, never letting one suspect 
she was tired or had a care." Juliette's husband had given 



JULIETTE LAMBER 229 

her a yacht for New Year's and they all revelled in lying 
on its deck and basking in the sun. Sand called Adam "bow 
wow" which she considered a compliment, for she adored 
canines. "The next best animal to a dog is a man," she used 
to say. They spent much time picking flowers, which was 
Sand's chief hobby. 

Sand's genuineness, her kindly nature, her sympathy, were 
so patent that persons admitted to her intimacy always tried 
to minimize her faults. To Juliette her "great friend" was 
almost without a blemish. It was not love, it was a desire to 
comfort, that led to her indiscretions with Alfred de Musset, 
with Chopin, with Merimee. "George Sand's capacity for 
love was not wholly passion. As a friend she has always 
shown fidelity, a kindliness, a devotion, which her lovers 
have never found in any other woman. . . . What she con 
sidered passion was a composite of sentiments wholly foreign 
to transports of the heart and senses." Her final judgment 
was summed up in these words written after Sand was dead: 
"Great, great friend,' I shall ever hold as friends those who 
love you, who honor, praise, and admire you; and as enemies 
those who, guilty of greater faults than yours, accuse you." 

Not long after Juliette's marriage Sand rented an apart 
ment in Paris and Juliette saw her "grande anaie" almost 
every day. Juliette was engaged at this time in writing two 
novels, L'fiducation de Laure, and Saine et sauve, in both 
of which it is easy to trace the influence of Sand. Neither 
of them can be ranked as a work of genius, though they gave 
abundant proof of the author's facile pen. 



230 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

L'fiducation de Laure, published in 1868, was really a 
recital of her own education. It proves, if any proof be 
needed, that all her training tended to make her oblivious 
of the realities of life. She was brought up in a world of 
abstractions which gave a false color to all her later life. 
This education led her into a wholly undue admiration of 
the ancient Greeks and all their civilization stood for. You 
can see this error in a series of articles on contemporary 
Greek poetry which she wrote many years later for La nou- 
velle revue. She saw in that poetry a beauty of form and 
substance which no one, with the exception perhaps of Byron, 
had been able to discover. She was so charming a companion, 
and her loyalty and joyousness were so pervasive, that her 
zeal for Hellenism did not materially affect her social rela 
tions, though many of her friends tried to turn her thoughts 
into more rational channels. Marie d'Agoult told her she was 
too young and beautiful to waste her time on Aristotle and 
Plato. George Sand treated Juliette's Hellenism as a joke, 
and Adam, much as he adored his wife, went into the next 
room when she insisted on discussing Greek philosophy. 

The truth is, Juliette was now entering upon a new field 
of activity in which she was destined to acquire lasting fame. 
She was coming to be an active participant in public affairs. 

The Maison Sallandrouze was generally recognized as the 
rallying place of those opposed to the imperial form of gov 
ernment established by Napoleon III. Edmond Adam had 
been one of the most ardent republicans of 1848, and he had 
never ceased to denounce the coup d'etat by which France 



JULIETTE LAMBER 231 

had once more become an empire. So bitter was his opposi 
tion to the empire that he refused to hold any office that 
required him to swear allegiance to the existing government, 
and the doors of his hospitable home were always thrown 
wide open to all who clamored for a republic. Of such, the 
most vociferous was a young lawyer from the south of France 
named Leon Gambetta. Though of exceedingly humble 
origin, and speaking the French language with an accent 
that grated on Parisian ears, by his skill as an orator he 
had gained a great ascendency over the common people. So 
it occurred to Adam that he might be a useful ally, and he 
suggested to Juliette that she invite Gambetta to one of her 
elaborate dinners. At first the idea of having him at her house 
caused her a good deal of trepidation. Some of her friends 
told her it was impossible. They called him a monster, a man 
of coarse texture, unsuitable in every way to sit at her table. 
Still, she realized that the very traits that would be repulsive 
to her guests were invaluable in promoting the cause which 
she and her husband had so close to their hearts. She decided 
to try the experiment. 

Gambetta came in rough attire, with soft collar and flannel 
shirt. Apparently he knew nothing of social customs and 
when he was presented to his hostess he mumbled, "If I had 

known " She finished his sentence for him, "You would 

not have come, and that would not have been nice of you." 
To put him at ease she insisted on his taking her in to dinner 
and sitting on her right. 

A few days later he was employed to defend a distin- 



232 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

guished citizen arrested for advocating a memorial to one 
of the revolutionists who had been killed in 1848. The 
accused was convicted, hut Gambetta's eloquence thrilled the 
crowds that packed the courtroom. Instead of presenting evi 
dence for the defendant he launched into a bitter denuncia 
tion of the government. The authorities were speechless with 
indignation, and the opposition was beside itself with joy. 
"We have found our leader," they were all saying. He had 
an uncanny talent, according to Juliette, in sensing public 
opinion and expressing it in concrete form. Juliette and her 
husband were too uncompromising to approve entirely of 
Gambetta's methods, but they were so wedded to the idea of 
a republic that they came to lean on him more than on any 
other man in public life. 

It was now becoming clear to everyone that war with Ger 
many was at hand. The great material prosperity that France 
had enjoyed for a generation made her a tempting prize. 
With blind confidence in his military prowess Napoleon III 
had treated the threatening warfare with unconcern. He 
had counted on Italy and Austria to stand with France if 
any outbreak should occur. In spite of constant warnings that 
Prussia was raising a formidable army, he made no effort 
to secure the services of capable generals and allowed his 
military organization to fall into disarray. So great was the 
discontent with his administration that he did not dare to 
burden the nation with increased expenditure for armament. 
To admit that France was in danger of invasion he was well 
aware would lead to revolution. The best policy, as he con- 



JULIETTE LAMBER 233 

ceived it, was to put on a bold front and in case of necessity 
declare war on Prussia before she was ready to attack. 

On July 19th, 1870, the mad adventure started with a 
declaration of war by France. Napoleon III left Paris to take 
command of his army, 350,000 strong. The Germans, with 
520,000 men, joined battle all along the front, winning 
virtually every engagement. On September 2nd Mac-Mahon 
was routed at Sedan, and 104,000 men, including Napoleon, 
became prisoners of war. 

These dreadful tidings came to Juliette at the Maison 
Sallandrouze. She rushed into the street, which was packed 
with vociferous men and women giving voice to their indig 
nation. Napoleon the Little, as he was called, was almost 
forgotten in the people's wrath at the corps legislatif which 
had voted for this stupid war. Juliette allowed herself to be 
carried along by the mob. Everyone was shouting for the 
dissolution of the government. Here and there crowds were 
gathered around a fiery orator urging an attack on the 
chambre des deputes. Those who had long been seeking to 
overthrow the government believed their hour of victory was 
at hand. As night fell, the crowds grew thinner and by one 
o'clock in the morning most people had returned to their 
homes. "It is in the family," writes Juliette, "that the nation 
holds its final council. The lights in the houses announce not 
a festival but a wake a wake of tears. Under every roof is 
an invalid in his last extremity with all the family at his 
bedside. The invalid is France in her last agony." 

The next morning, in accordance with arrangements made 



234 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

the night before by the leaders of the opposition, the garde 
nationale wearing their uniforms but without their guns 
gathered in the place de la Concorde, and the people rallied 
about them, determined to force their way into the chambre. 
Juliette pushed her way into the crowd and made a speech 
her first speech in public, she declares. "The republic," she 
said, "is the greatest product of our courage, intelligence, 
activity, growth. If society is an enlarged replica of our 
selves, the republic is the result of our best deeds, it is a 
living composite of our largest duties, rights, and interests. 
Republics are not decreed, they are made. No social malady, 
no monarchical cancer, shall again kill it. Vive la repub- 
lique!" 

When the crowds reached the chambre they found that 
most of the deputies had fled. Gambetta, who was one of the 
few to remain, jumped to his feet and shouted, "Bonaparte 
and his dynasty have forever ceased to reign in France." It 
was then agreed that the deputies from Paris should proceed 
to the hotel de ville and constitute themselves le gouvernement 
de la defense nationale. 

So, without the shedding of a drop of blood, emerged the 
republic which Juliette had so many years espoused. "Hence 
forth," she wrote in her journal, "it is for France and not for 
a dynasty that we shall fight. It is for our country that we 
shall be patriots." 

Everyone expected that the next step would be an attack 
on Paris. All of the regular army except the troops shut up 
in the fortresses at Metz and Belfort had been annihilated. 



JULIETTE LAMBER 235 

Nothing stood in the way of the Prussian march on Paris. 
Many people thought it folly to resist. Not so, Juliette. "I 
am for battle," she wrote in her journal. Paris was sur 
rounded on all sides by forts and so long as they held firm 
the city was safe from the enemy's artillery. To man the forts 
an urgent call was sent to the marines, the only armed men 
left who knew how to handle heavy guns. The garde mobile, 
consisting chiefly of peasants, was brought hastily to the 
capital, and it formed the nucleus of a new army. In addi 
tion there was the garde nationale composed of clerks and 
shopkeepers, well intentioned but having no real knowledge 
of military affairs. All able-bodied men were urged to volun 
teer. Juliette's husband joined the garde nationale as a 
private soldier. 

Most of the women and all of the diplomatic corps except 
the American minister departed. Juliette determined to stay 
and see it through. There was much opposition to the new 
government which had assumed control and Juliette felt it 
her duty to use such influence as she had to strengthen its 
position. "We must not leave them, we must second, advise, 
and sustain them." 

In less than a week the Prussians had surrounded the city 
and had begun the siege. With pardonable foresight Juliette 
busied herself with laying up provisions. How long the city 
would hold out no one knew. Some said two weeks. Others, 
including Juliette, guessed three months. 

What could she do to help? In each ward was established 
a hospital for the wounded. As daughter of a physician and 



236 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

granddaughter of a surgeon, she felt it specially appropriate 
that she take part in this work. She volunteered to organize a 
hospital with thirty beds. Her offer was accepted and the 
conservatoire de musique was turned over to her for the pur 
pose. Here she worked all day long making bandages and 
preparing medicines to be ready for the wounded as they 
came in. When the day's work was over she sat down and 
wrote letters to everybody she could think of, begging for 
money for her hospital. 

The city was still in touch with the outside world by under 
ground telegraph wires. Reports came in that the provinces 
were recruiting armies to come to the relief of Paris. Juliette 
had little confidence in these reports. She says in her jour 
nal, "In the privacy of my own home I doubt, but when I 
go out I express faith. Men get their strength by confidence, 
women by trusting in the heavens." What was needed, it 
seemed to her, was a man of force to stir the provinces into 
action, and she hailed with eagerness the plan which Adam 
favored of having Gambetta cross the lines in a balloon and 
employ his eloquence to arouse the people. This plan was put 
into effect on October 7th, and met with some success, though 
the armies which Gambetta recruited were never able to 
reach Paris. 

As the days passed without any improvement in the situa 
tion, Juliette grew impatient. She distrusted the capacity of 
the commander of the besieged city. "The main thing is not 
to shut our forces up in Paris. We should harass the enemy. 
Every day, every night, we should throw our men of valor 



JULIETTE LAMBER 237 

upon the enemy's camps so as to spread terror and alarm 
among them." 

The communists were now beginning to give trouble in the 
outskirts of Paris. The government asked Adam to accept 
the office of prefect of police. "You tell me," said Adam, "it 
is a dangerous post and requires a devoted patriot. Very 
well, I don't care to think it over. I accept." Juliette was in 
despair. She admired his courage, but considered him too 
outspoken for a position which required so many clandestine 
negotiations. However, she went with him to live in the pre 
fect's offices "a horrible prison," she calls it. Her friends 
had begged Adam to accept this position and now none of 
her friends would even come to see her. She was right in her 
estimate of Adam as prefect of police. In spite of all he could 
do, the communists got out of hand. Adam went to the com 
mander of the army and begged that a marine officer be 
appointed to keep the people quiet, as they had more respect 
for the marines than for the garde nationale. Nothing came 
of his suggestion and the communists grew bolder. One had 
to be always on the alert, said Juliette. "If in an hour of 
danger the prefect must pay with his body Adam will be 
ready to pay." 

The improvised army made a few feeble sorties but was 
always defeated. The people were growing more and more 
exasperated. They blamed the generals, most of whom were 
left-overs from the empire. On October 30th, public opinion 
had become so threatening that Adam did not go to bed all 
night. People were denouncing le gouvernement de la defense 



238 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

nationale so vigorously that he expected at any minute to 
learn of an attack on the hotel de ville. The next morning he 
ordered twenty battalions of the garde nationale to be in 
readiness to resist the attack. A little after one o'clock he 
went to the hotel de ville. Crowds began to gather demand 
ing an election to replace the provisional government. Before 
nightfall the crowd had forced its way into the hotel de ville 
and arrested all members of the government, including 
Adam. Juliette heard the news in the prefecture. Suddenly, 
at half past six, Adam appeared and gave orders that the 
prefecture be defended. Then he rushed back to the hotel 
de ville. Juliette was left alone in the prefecture. She was 
advised to pull down the window shades, but she refused and 
kept all the lights lit to let the populace know that business 
was being conducted as usual. 

As the garde nationale which Adam had ordered to proceed 
to the hotel de ville had not obeyed, he went to the place 
Vendome for an explanation. The lieutenant-colonel replied 
that he had given the order but the troops had slunk off on 
the way. But he would see that the order was carried out be 
tween nine and ten. 

In the evening an officer came to the prefecture to take 
possession and showed Juliette a paper announcing that 
Adam had been removed by the government. She did not 
believe it and refused to give up the prefecture. While the 
officers of the prefecture were still holding out, news arrived 
that Adam had gone to the hotel de ville about midnight 



JULIETTE LAMBER 239 

under escort of the garde mobile and the garde nationals. 
Entering by a secret passage, he found the whole building 
packed with insurgents, many of them carrying guns. All 
the members of the government were there and Adam joined 
them. It was a threatening mob that the government had to 
face. After bickering till nearly dawn it was agreed that the 
mob should disperse but that an election should be held the 
same day and the people given the right to choose a new 
government. At half past five the hotel de ville had been 
cleared of the mob and Adam went back to the prefecture, 
where he found Juliette waiting for him. She had been sitting 
up all night. 

He was awakened after a few minutes' sleep by an officer 
from the government demanding the arrest of the leaders 
of the insurgents. Adam informed them that it had been 
agreed as one of the conditions of the mob's withdrawal that 
none of their leaders should be arrested^ This the agent 
denied and Adam was ordered to get out of bed and present 
himself at the hotel de ville. He complied and told the 
members of the government frankly that the agreement though 
only verbal had been distinctly that there would be no arrests. 
He refused to go back on his word. As the government did 
not agree with him, he insisted on resigning his post as pre 
fect of police. It was a delicate situation. No one questioned 
Adam's sincerity, but some of the members of the govern 
ment were not entirely clear in their memory of what had 
been said. They felt it would encourage further disorders if 



240 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

they allowed the ringleaders to escape punishment. Finally 
they accepted Adam's resignation, and he gave up his post, 
much to the relief of Juliette. 

When Metz fell, 200,000 more Prussian soldiers were left 
free to attack Paris. The question at once arose whether it 
would not be wise to seek an armistice. The government 
finally voted against it. Juliette was overjoyed. "We must 
cling to our sublime folly as a precious .jewel." When the 
enemy's bombs began to fall in the city she wrote, "I would 
give my house and a hundred others in order to hold out two 
days longer." * . . "I must encourage by my optimism those 
who have less hope than I have. Women cannot fight. Their 
duty is to strengthen the courage of those who can." 

On November 24th she was shown a letter from Gambetta 
saying he had recruited an army of 200,000 men and was 
to have 100,000 more in eight days. "At last! Vive la France! 
She will live then, our country. No one will trample her 
under foot. We shall find Frenchmen to defend her. . . . All 
Paris owes a debt of gratitude to Gambetta." 

On December llth she writes, "I am suffering terribly from 
rheumatism. For nine years I have passed four months of 
each year at Golfe-Juan. I have never known cold more than 
one degree below zero, centigrade. Last night it was fifteen 
below in my bedroom." She was forced by ill health to resign 
as head of her ambulance corps. Eggs were now selling at 
2 francs apiece, butter 28 francs a pound, rabbits 40 francs 
apiece, chickens 25 to 50, turkeys and geese 100 to 200. 
When she invited friends to dinner, each was expected to 



JULIETTE LAMBER 241 

bring food with him. Hers was virtually gone. And she was 
without wood to heat her apartment. Everyone was using 
his chairs and tables as firewood, and the government was 
cutting down all the trees in the streets. 

On January 5th Juliette with other ladies opened a sale at 
one of the railway stations in aid of working women. Juliette 
had a kiosk where she sold newspapers and periodicals. 

The city was now being bombarded, and old men, women, 
and children were being killed. 

On January 19th the garde nationale made another sortie, 
but without avail. They were driven back with heavy loss, 
and the commander of the Parisian troops made an an 
nouncement that he had asked for a two-days armistice. It 
was none too soon. People were dying of starvation all over 
the city. Two weeks more and there would not have been a 
scrap of food left. The armistice was granted, and before the 
two days were over Paris had capitulated. 

The armistice signed, Juliette could not restrain her indig 
nation at its terms. Bismarck had insisted that an assemblee 
be elected to agree upon the terms of peace, and she believed 
that an assemblee elected while foreign armies were in con 
trol could not represent the real interests of the people. She 
was pleased, however, when Adam was elected one of the 
delegates from Paris. 

When the delegates came together Bismarck announced 
his terms the cession of Alsace excepting Belfort, also a 
part of Lorraine including Metz, an indemnity of five billion 
francs, the entry into Paris on March 1st of 30,000 Prussian 



242 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

soldiers who were to bivouac in the place de la Concorde till 
ratifications should be exchanged, and the fortresses along 
the eastern frontier to remain in the enemy's hands until the 
indemnity was paid. On learning of these humiliating terms, 
Juliette exclaimed, "They have torn out the heart of France." 
Gambetta arose from his seat in the assemblee and pleaded 
vehemently for a continuance of the war. Being voted down 
he flew into a rage and resigned his seat in the assemblee. 
Sand wrote to Adam that Bismarck's terms must be accepted 
and denounced Gambetta for his opposition. Juliette was 
shocked by this letter. "An abyss has opened/' she declared, 
"between me and my dearest friend. We do not understand 
each other." 

Then came the rising of the commune in Paris. Adam 
hurried from Versailles where the assemblee was sitting, and 
endeavored to calm the communists, but without avail. He 
returned to Versailles and tried to persuade Thiers, who had 
been elected chief of the executive power, to conciliate the 
communists. This also was without avail. Nobody seemed to 
know exactly what the communists wanted. Some said they 
were agents of Bismarck, others thought they were being 
spurred on by Gambetta. The probability is they merely 
sought an opportunity to plunder. Adam made a point of 
returning to Paris every night as proof of his desire to con 
ciliate the rabble. 

All this time Juliette was at The Briars. She was eager to 
go to Paris and play her part, but Adam insisted that she 
stay away. The government at Versailles did not undertake 



JULIETTE LAMBER 243 

to quell the rioting in Paris. They did not feel secure enough 
of their position. The army was lukewarm to the new govern 
ment and would have deserted rather than fire on their fel 
low-citizens. Adam arranged a meeting between the republi 
can league and the communists but little came of it. After 
a couple of months, order was restored by troops under 
Mac-Mahon, and Juliette returned to Paris. 

From now on, Juliette threw herself heart and soul into 
the political affairs of France. For many months after peace 
was declared the assemblee was struggling to decide what 
form of government should be established. The assemblee 
had been elected while the country was in a state of turmoil 
and before the people had had an opportunity to formulate 
their plans. Some of the delegates from the very start were 
in favor of a republic, but the majority, having lived all their 
lives under a monarchical form of government, were slow 
to favor any radical change. That the deliberations of the 
assemblee finally resulted in the establishment of a republic 
was due in some measure, at least, to the ceaseless energy 
of Juliette. 

Its earliest sessions gave Juliette little cause for hope. 
Thiers, the presiding officer, and nearly all the members 
were lukewarm to the idea of a republic. Juliette, who sat 
as a spectator at almost every session, was terribly distressed 
to observe that no one of real persuasive power seemed to 
advocate a republic. She talked it over with Adam, and both 
agreed there was no chance of setting up a republic unless 
they could find a brilliant leader to champion their cause. 



244 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

The ideal man, of course, was Gambetta, but he had lost all 
influence through his obstinate refusal to sign the treaty with 
Germany. In Juliette's eyes that was no ground for reproach, 
though nearly all her friends regarded Gambetta's action as 
the height of folly. The upshot of it was that Adam finally 
wrote to Gambetta and begged him to take his seat once more 
in the assemblee. Gambetta yielded, and from that day he 
and Juliette worked hand in hand to establish the republic. 
Juliette was present when Gambetta made his first speech in 
the assemblee at Versailles. She was already acquainted with 
his extraordinary power to sway his audiences, but she did 
not know him intimately enough to be sure of the real senti 
ments that lay beneath his persuasive eloquence. Some people 
spoke of him as a "fiery madman" and it piqued her curiosity 
to see whether he was inspired by true patriotism or was 
merely a charlatan seeking public applause. She came away a 
little disappointed. She describes him as fat, heavy, badly 
dressed, shuffling along rather than walking. With his large 
head and shaggy hair he reminded her of a lion. His address 
seemed to her surprisingly undemonstrative. She had expected 
to hear him launch forth into a violent attack upon Thiers 
for his monarchical ideas. 

The fact was, of course, that Gambetta, with his uncanny 
skill at sensing the feelings of his hearers, saw at a glance 
that the time was not ripe for a vehement attack. He must 
wait until his unpopularity in the assemblee had worn off. 
Adam, who had far more political sagacity than his wife, 
was not altogether disheartened. He had been all his life on 



JULIETTE LAMBER 245 

terms of intimacy with Thiers, and he believed the best way 
to bring him into the fold was to let republican doctrines 
filter gradually into his mind. 

The Maison Sallandrouze, which had remained quiescent 
since the beginning of the siege, was now seething with activ 
ity again. Those famous Wednesday and Friday dinners were 
renewed, and among the guests were always to be found the 
members of the assemblee who favored a republic. Gambetta, 
now decently equipped by Adam's tailor, was always there, 
and, as Juliette came to know him better, she grew to have 
entire confidence in the genuineness of his sentiments. His 
speeches were winning many adherents, and both Juliette and 
her husband were looking up to him as their "great leader." 
With Adam's assistance he established a newspaper to dis 
seminate his political principles. When the project was being 
started Juliette declared, "The office of the Republique will 
be in the rue de Croissant, but its salon will be in the Maison 
Sallandrouze." Egotistical as that may seem, no one could 
deny that the deputies were coming more and more to sym 
pathize with the policies which were being shaped beneath 
her roof. It was a tedious process. Five years were used up 
in deliberations, but in the end the republic was set firmly 
on its feet. 

Through these five years the hostess of the Maison Sallan 
drouze was in almost daily association with Gambetta. Their 
views did not at all times coincide, but the personal affection 
which had now grown up between them kept them pulling 
steadily together in the fundamental purpose by which they 



246 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

were equally inspired. As a matter of fact, they were by 
natural instinct birds of a feather creatures of sentiment. 
Gambetta, no less than Juliette, was an idealist. In spite of 
his uncouth demeanor, he had a delicate appreciation of art. 
Deep down in his heart was a craving for romantic adven 
ture. He was one of the few persons frequenting her salon 
who shared her love of the old Greek culture. Whenever 
Gambetta's strenuous political activity permitted, he found 
no one to whom he was able to divulge his intimate thoughts 
so freely as he could with her, and it was in Gambetta more 
than in any other that she found a sympathetic listener to her 
literary effusions. 

Apart from personal considerations, what cemented their 
friendship more than anything else was their sentimental 
advocacy of the "revanche." In summoning to arms the whole 
French nation within a couple of days after his flight in the 
balloon from Paris he had exhorted, "Let us rise as one man 
and die rather than endure the shame of dismemberment." 
And in an address which he made in 1872, he declared, "If 
there is one thing that can comfort and strengthen us in our 
sorrowful mourning for our dismembered country, it is the 
thought of those good French mothers who will assure to 
France her champions and avengers." These were brave words 
to be uttered while the Prussian army was still encamped in 
France. But they were none too brave for Juliette who in 
season and out of season was crying for revenge. 

The assemblee had been elected at the behest of Bismarck 
because he refused to admit that le gouvernement de la 



JULIETTE LAMBER 247 

defense nationale had any power to negotiate terms of peace. 
Gambetta took the view that the duties of the assemblee had 
been performed when the treaty of peace was signed. But he 
was voted down, and the assemblee lasted five years till it had 
formulated all the terms of the new constitution. Gambetta 
remained a member till the end and his voice was often heard 
with interest and applause, though the real effort of his 
life through those five years was to promulgate his doctrines 
in the columns of his paper, the Republique frangaise. 
Through his influence that paper became not only a financial 
success, but a tremendous power. The form of constitution 
finally adopted was the result of the doctrines set forth in 
that paper and exhibited in no slight degree the impress of 
Juliette's thoughts. 

When he first took his seat in the assemblee, Gambetta was 
thirty-three. In spite of his unquestioned patriotism, he had 
emerged from the recent conflict with a damaged reputation. 
Perhaps it was through no fault of his, but the armies that 
he had so enthusiastically recruited had gone down in de 
feat. His following was made up of the most dangerous 
elements in France. Most respectable people regarded him as 
a communist. A bachelor, with no pecuniary resources, his 
only asset of importance was his marvellous forensic ability. 
Being accepted, therefore, as the protege of a great banker 
was like picking up manna from heaven. It enabled him to 
repair his shattered reputation and to enter on a path in 
which his talent as an orator was sure to bring success. 

He was fortunate, too, in finding that in fundamental doc- 



248 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

trines he and the house of Adam were in full accord. In the 
early days of the assemblee there were two subjects that gave 
rise to endless discussion. One was the establishment of a 
powerful army, and the other was the spread of universal 
education. To accomplish these two purposes Adam as well 
as Juliette had set their hearts, and Garnbetta started by 
making them the keynotes of his public life. 

Strange indeed it would have been if this community of 
interests had not led to personal intimacy. Gambetta planned 
to pass a portion of the winter with his friends at The Briars, 
a project that fell through only because he was confined to 
his room by gout. "He is showing toward us a constantly 
growing friendship," comments Juliette. "Our worship of 
Gambetta increases every day." "We must often have him 
at The Briars in his vacations." They had a good excuse, for 
Gambetta's father had taken up his abode in Nice. He called 
on Juliette and begged her to use her influence with Thiers 
to secure employment for his nephew. With so great a son he 
thought his nephew entitled to any post. Thiers at that period 
distrusted Gambetta, but Adam interceded and the post was 
secured. Juliette went to Nice with the good news. She found 
all the family there, father, mother, sister, and a servant who 
was regarded by all as a member of the family. The sister, 
whom everybody loved, lacked education but was full of 
energy and had a brilliant mind. Juliette stayed all day 
listening with rapture while they sang the praises of "the 
great statesman." 

Juliette went home with the praises of Gambetta ringing 



JULIETTE LAMBER 249 

in her ears. The fiery orator had become the embodiment 
of her ideals. No one could persuade her that he had a fault. 
Sand kept writing to her that Gambetta was using her to 
advance his personal interests. "He is a sorcerer," she said. 
But Juliette turned a deaf ear to all such warnings. Not long 
after, her daughter was married and Gambetta was asked 
to serve as one of the two witnesses. 

When Thiers fell, he was succeeded as president of the 
republic by Mac-Mahon, and Gambetta began to lay his 
plans to be appointed president of the council. Juliette was 
still looking forward to the "revanche" and planned to discuss 
it with Gambetta the next time he came to see her at The 
Briars. But there were already indications that he was break 
ing away. He was making other influential friendships and 
did not feel the need of her assistance as he had in the days 
of his apprenticeship. 

In due time Gambetta came to spend a week at The Briars. 
Juliette records that though they agreed in their general 
conception regarding the republic, they differed as to many 
details. She longed for what she called an Athenian republic, 
governed by an aristocracy based on quality, where the best 
men should control. Gambetta wanted to raise the masses to 
the level of the best. However, they allowed no differences of 
opinion to affect their friendship. She found Gambetta a 
jolly companion, fond of the good things of life. She had just 
published her Recits du Golfe-Juan with which Gambetta 
was delighted, and in a moment of confidence she told him 
she was not free to write just as she pleased. She had written 



250 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

a romance called Paienne which she had kept secret from her 
husband. Gambetta insisted on her reading the manuscript 
to him. He was enchanted, but they had to put it away when 
Adam came into the room. 

In the autumn of 1874, when she was leaving for The 
Briars, she begged Gambetta to continue his "conversations" 
with her by letter. He pleaded that he was a poor letter 
writer, but he promised to write, as he was still anxious for 
her to keep him posted about the news which she was able to 
gather from her numerous friends. The news from Germany 
was menacing and on that subject she and Gambetta were 
beginning to draw apart. She wanted France to form an 
alliance with Russia, while Gambetta believed any steps in 
that direction would precipitate another invasion of France 
by Bismarck. In this belief Gambetta was sincere, and with 
out much question right. In the first of the conversations 
which he had promised he wrote her frankly that France 
was not in any mood for another war. The capital had again 
resigned itself to a life of pleasure. This was manifestly 
written in a moment of depression, for the next day he wrote 
her again and told her she must not take him too seriously. 
"I am well aware/* he writes, "that my talks with you are 
not diplomatic, but by telling you my impressions just as 
they come to me I shall show myself to you as I am, vacil 
lating and changeable. ... I want to keep you informed not 
of events but of the impressions they make on me." That he 
was changeable she had already begun to discern. A few 
days later he wrote her that Paris was overrun with foreign- 



JULIETTE LAMBER 251 

ers "one of the many symptoms of the crisis which threatens 
us because of the miserable feebleness of our government." 
Juliette could not quite see how the weakness of the govern 
ment had anything to do with the presence of foreigners. 
Perhaps he did not know himself, but in the course of his 
rambling comments he threw out an idea which in the light 
of what happened forty years later looks like prophetic 
vision. "The slavic world is in a state of fermentation. We 
may expect that the slightest misadventure in Serbia or 
Bosnia will set all Europe aflame." He suggested that France 
ally herself with the Balkans to prevent such a conflagration. 
Juliette also was for an alliance with the Slavs, but not with 
the Balkan states. She wanted nothing less than Russia as an 
aUy. 

Within a week he was on the top of the wave. The elections 
which had been going on for the last few days gave his group 
a great preponderance in the assemblee, and he writes a joy 
ous letter to "Our Lady of The Briars." She had written him 
that his views were distorted by his constricted association 
with the journalists and politicians of Paris and that the 
wider associations which she had made enabled her to take 
a saner view of the situation. He had to admit his folly in 
expressing so positively his transitory views. "But," he 
writes, "my frankness was worth while, for it has brought 
me this lovely, enthusiastic letter in which I can almost feel 
the beating of your heart so full of passionate devotion to 
France. It is only woman who can love her country as you 
do." She had reached the point now where his arguments 



252 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

had lost their weight, and she detected a note of insincerity 
when he closed his letter by calling himself her "resident 
minister in the good City of Paris." However, she was ready 
to sink all personal animosity for the sake of France. "My 
duty to our leader is to he sincere with him, to lay aside all 
personal feeling and to say to him with possibly excessive 
frankness, in order that it may sink deeper, what I know to 
be the truth." 

The truth was, as Juliette knew, that Gambetta was abso 
lutely indispensable to the cause for which she stood. He 
was the leader of the opposition, and his untiring energy, 
his eloquence, his growing reputation as a champion of the 
masses, enabled him to stir up enthusiasm in the most 
lethargic departments of France. As Juliette declared, he 
was the central figure wherever there was a contest. She 
knew he was an opportunist and she did not like him for it, 
but he was a master in the art of grouping the divergent 
influences in the country districts. "He was a general who 
knew the numbers and the value of his soldiers." As a cam 
paigner he had no equal, and that, for Juliette, was enough 
to compensate for almost any fault. She continued to write 
him constantly and saw to it that his abode in Paris was 
always plentifully supplied with flowers from The Briars. 

In the winter of 1875 he paid another visit to her in the 
course of which he spent a day with his poor old mother at 
Nice. It was an empty day. Prosperity had turned his head, 
and he told Juliette he would never go there again. While 
he was at The Briars, they got to discussing national charac- 



JULIETTE LAMBER 253 

teristics. Gambetta declared that the Latin spirit was gener 
ous and progressive, that Latin conquests had always brought 
life, a sense of legal authority, and order, while the German 
spirit was perpetual argument based on alleged superiority 
of intellect. "Germany is personified today in Bismarck, 
France is personified in me." We have no record of Juliette's 
reply, but, whatever she may have thought, it is safe to say 
her delicacy of feeling prevented her from making the retort 
which he deserved. She never allowed her guests to take 
offense, and after he got back to Paris he wrote her that his 
visit had strangely fortified his serenity and given him 
strength to face the intrigues with which he had to cope. 

Down in the south of France he had been working on an 
intrigue of his own. His sister Benedetta had lost her hus 
band in the siege of Paris, and had found a refuge in the 
family home in Nice. Gambetta had grown tired of con 
tributing to her support and wanted her to find another hus 
band. He had even gone so far as to pick out the man for her 
to marry a man who had long been a friend of Benedetta. 
Distrusting his own capacity to negotiate so delicate a busi 
ness, he had called on Juliette to put it through. With char 
acteristic urbanity she did her best. She called upon the 
prospective husband and portrayed in glowing colors, as in 
all verity she could, the charming qualities of Benedetta. 
It was not a matter to be pressed too hard. But in the end it 
came to pass in conformity with her friend's desires. 

When the assemblee, after its five years of deliberation, 
was preparing to dissolve, Juliette had cause to fear that she 



254 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

was approaching the most tragic disillusionment of her life. 
Gambetta had turned his back on Alsace and Lorraine. The 
constitution adopted, he had given up all thought of the 
"revanche/ 9 His political future had come to be the main ob 
ject of his thought. She began to suspect that what she had 
always looked upon as patriotism might in the end turn out to 
be nothing but a thirst for power. She could hardly believe that 
possible, but there were moments when the thought caused 
her bitter anguish. Gambetta realized that he no longer stood 
so firmly on the pedestal to which Juliette had raised him, 
and he made a strenuous effort to restore himself to her 
good graces. He writes her, "You can never know what your 
help has meant to me, or what an egotist I am in madly 
loving you." She jots down in her journal that he is using 
every effort to convince her of his friendship. Adam had been 
elected one of the seventy-five life senators and it was increas 
ingly important to Gambetta that he keep on good footing 
with Adam's wife. 

In the winter of 1876 Gambetta was again at The Briars, 
and Juliette read to him the manuscript of her Jean et 
Pascal It was the first book which she had written since her 
marriage without consulting her husband. At an earlier visit 
Adam had agreed that he would no longer interfere by 
giving Juliette advice, and would let Gambetta be her only 
critic. Gambetta was so delighted when she read to him the 
tender passages about Alsace that he could hardly restrain 
his emotion. She wondered whether she had not misjudged 



JULIETTE LAMBER 255 

him in thinking that his interest in foreign politics had 
robbed him of his love for Alsace. Even Adam was enchanted 
by the story and promised that he would never again en 
deavor to clip her wings. 

Gambetta was elected a member of the chambre des 
deputes by an imposing majority and was immediately made 
president of the budget commission, a post which carried 
with it immense power. He was now considered by many to 
be the coming man of France, and in September, 1876, he 
determined to learn at first hand the true condition of affairs 
in Germany. Shaving off his beard he travelled incognito all 
through Germany, and was tremendously impressed by the 
thoroughness with which the German army had permeated 
every department of German life all, as he said, through 
the vigor and skill of Bismarck. He wrote to Juliette to give 
her his first impression, and he closed, "I shall not take up 
the political yoke till the fifth or sixth of October. Till then 
I shall seek adventure, having in my wanderings but a single 
shadow my absence from you. I have grown so sweetly 
habituated to living in your sunlight that I shall walk in 
gloom until I see you again." These honeyed phrases did not 
blind Juliette to the stern reality that she and Gambetta were 
coming to the parting of the ways. She believed he exagger 
ated the superhuman power of Bismarck. "Gambetta thinks 
to minimize the cruelty of our reverses by extolling the valor 
of our conqueror." 

Shortly after, Juliette's father died, and Gambetta wrote 



256 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

her a letter of condolence in which he called her his sister. 
This letter convinced her for the time being, at least of 
the delicacy and tenderness of his friendship. 

Gambetta's public duties had now become so exacting that 
he could no longer give much time to the management of his 
newspaper. A popular edition of the Republique frangaise 
had been earning money fast and Adam advised Gambetta to 
sell it before he relinquished his control. Gambetta readily 
consented and the sale was made. The price was 1,500,000 
francs. Adam turned the money over to Gambetta, who was 
thus enabled to pass the rest of his days without financial 
troubles. This kindly act had hardly been consummated when 
lidam died, and Juliette retired to The Briars to wipe away 
her tears. 

When Juliette returned to Paris, she had new cause to 
realize that Gambetta's heart was not so tender as she had 
thought. His mother was on the way to Paris, and Gambetta 
wrote to Juliette not to let the poor old lady stay too long. 
Juliette felt it her duty to tell her what her son had written. 
At this disclosure of Gambetta's heartlessness his mother 
found it hard to check her tears. "I have given up my whole 
life to him," she murmured, "and now that he has become 
a great man he casts me aside." 

A few days later Juliette was called on to render another 
service to the man who had been so long her friend. It was 
brought to her attention that a lady had been seeing one of 
Gambetta's enemies with an offer to sell him some compro 
mising letters which Gambetta had written her some years 



JULIETTE LAMBER 257 

before. Juliette sent for Gambetta and told him what she had 
heard. He was much perturbed, and admitted that he had 
been on terms of intimacy with the lady, and that she had not 
only a number of his letters but also a photograph which he 
had given her and on which he had written some words that 
would seriously hurt him if they came before the public eye. 
He begged Juliette to see the lady and use her good offices 
to hush the matter up. Juliette made an appointment for the 
lady to come to her house and bring the papers with her. 
Before they parted Juliette had given the lady six thousand 
francs and she held in her hands a package containing all 
the letters and a photograph on which Gambetta had written 
over his signature the words, "My little queen, I love you 
more than I love France." 

Juliette, at Gambetta's request, had now resumed her regu 
lar Friday dinners at which he met the men he felt could be 
most useful to him in his career. It was nothing but a sense 
of personal loyalty that induced Juliette to accept this task. 
With bitter anguish she had abandoned all hope of the 
"revanche." Gambetta was now talking of disarmament, which 
filled her with despair. "How," she ejaculated, "can he, our 
nation's defender, think of disarmament before we have 
recaptured our Alsace and our Lorraine?" As soon as she 
could she escaped to The Briars, taking with her the manu 
script of three novels, La'ide, Grecque, and Pai'enne, which 
were almost ready for publication. 

In the course of the winter of 1878, Gambetta paid her 
another visit his last visit at The Briars. She had just 



258 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

learned that he had dined with the German ambassador in 
Paris, and she was so incensed that she could not restrain 
her indignation. "Who told you that?" Gambetta asked 
angrily. "I am a Parisian, my dear friend. . . . Don't forget 
that my husband was prefect of police, and remember there 
are French spies who watch the spies of Bismarck. . . . The 
chagrin which your action has caused me made me quit 
Paris. You are Prussian. I am a Cossack. Our aims are at 
the opposite poles of French opinion. I have tried to bar 
your way every time you approached Bismarck." 

"You obey your feelings," Gambetta replied, "and I con 
sult my intellect. Very well. Let us follow each our own 
path." 

"My path," she said, "is the national path, laid out by 
the splendid, proud past of our country; your path is a com 
promise, a pitfall." 

"Well, however we may disagree," replied Gambetta, 
smiling, "let us keep our friendship untarnished." 

"I promise," said Juliette. 

That was the end of their intimacy. She continued to see 
him at her dinners in Paris, but her private interviews with 
him always ended, as she says, in "scenes." Every now and 
then he would write her a letter expressing his devotion, and 
the next time she saw him he would say things that made her 
boil with indignation. "No friendship in my whole life has 
contained so great a variety of emotions worship, admira 
tion, doubt, revolt as my friendship with Gambetta." After 
he became president of the chambre des deputes he seemed 



JULIETTE LAMBER 259 

to her to have cast aside all his patriotic feelings and to be 
interested only in problems of political strategy. And yet 
she could never forget that he had always shown a sympa 
thetic understanding of her aspirations and had contributed 
more than any other man to bringing them to fruition. "For 
that reason," she says, "nothing ever can or will destroy my 
affection for him." 

During all these years while Juliette was apparently 
immersed in politics she was devoting a good deal of her 
leisure time to writing novels. Three of these books the 
trilogy which she took with her to The Briars in 1878 were 
an exposition of her ideas regarding the life of ancient 
Greece. They were all written in a graceful style, and dis 
play considerable imaginative power, but the personages 
have not sufficient definiteness of character to make the 
stories particularly interesting. Her best novel, without any 
question, was her Jean et Pascal, published in 1876. This 
book illustrates better than any other of her writings Juli 
ette's literary merits and defects. It is a masterpiece of scenic 
description, and an utterly fantastic portrayal of human emo 
tion. The underlying theme is a frenzied loyalty to France. 
Pascal, an officer in the army, spurns the love of Madeleine 
lest it distract him from the service to his country. To show 
him her indifference, she persuades her brother Jean to take 
her to Italy where her Italian cousin Spedone is waiting to 
offer her his hand. Jean, who wants her to marry Pascal, 
keeps him informed of every fluttering of Madeleine's heart. 
She tells her brother that she hates Pascal because he has 



260 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

no other sentiment than affection for his native land. He has 
built up an ideal of which he has become the slave, and he 
defies any woman to set him free. "Gentleness," the author 
comments,, "is not inconsistent with courage. The great healer 
of man's troubles is woman. To doubt the helpful power of 
love is to risk living with a corrupt or ulcered heart." In 
the course of time Pascal softens. He writes to Jean that he 
had made a mistake in talking to Madeleine of platonic love. 
"I was not properly prepared for the perilous voyage of love. 
I spent too much time in weighing rny baggage." This letter 
fell into Madeleine's hands, and it convinced her that he had 
really loved her all along. 

Madeleine's feelings, of course, had run the whole gamut 
before they struck this satisfying chord. The sapphire waters 
of Geneva were not enough to soothe her and cause her to lose 
her love for the green pastures of dear old France. She 
found the spruce trees with their mass of branches clinging 
to the earth a poor substitute for the towering oak which 
spreads out wider and wider as it reaches the vault of heaven. 
In crossing the Alps she gazed with terror across the deep 
ravines along which mountain torrents thundered. When 
night fell, gorges seemed to rise around her like demons 
spreading wide their wings and throwing out long shadows 
bathed in mist while the sun lit up the mountain summits 
with its expiring flames. "Still higher a deafening voice 
roars out above us. A huge cascade leaps in fury from the 
entrails of the glacier, falls from a dizzy height with terri 
fying power, and carries along every obstacle in its path until 



JULIETTE LAMBER 261 

it reaches a cliff from which it hurls itself into the abyss 
below and hides itself in a huge cloud of spray." 

Not till she gazed upon the picturesque slopes of Italy 
did her spirits revive. Then she awoke to a new consciousness 
of the joy of living. The path in front of her seemed all 
bathed in sunlight and at its end was the promise of a 
romantic marriage which would enable her to forget the 
gloom that had settled on her native land. "I am tired of 
being a patriot," she cries. "I have been forced to shed too 
many tears over our lost territory. I have lamented too much 
the loss of our fortresses. I have felt too much chagrin over 
the ruin of our provinces. I have been driven too violently 
into national despair. The cup of my suffering has run over, 
and I am going to turn it upside down. Enough of French 
tragedy. I shall no more weep for Pascal's Lorraine. I am 
entering the country where my mother was born. You may 
cherish, Jean, the image of mutilated France. You are a 
soldier. You have the right to hate and to dream of ven 
geance. For myself I want love. I want to dream of youth 
and happiness. I want smiling fields where there are no 
wounds. Quitting this gorge inhabited by death I am resolved 
to live. After all these shadows I need oceans of light/' 

At Lago Maggiore she breaks into ecstasy over the rich 
ness of vegetation. Describing the garden of the Borromeo 
palace, she says, "Picture a thicket of rose laurel in full 
bloom. Gray turtle-doves fly above you purling their incan 
tation to Venus. The water of the lake laps and sings against 
the balustrades of stone. Is it the voices of the nymphs that 



262 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

answer? Never has nature taken more pains or expended 
more art, or furnished more richness, or given the soil a 
more luxuriant vegetation to hide the bad taste of man, than 
it does in the garden of the Borromeos. Eucalyptus, green 
and black bamboo, tea, camphor, and lemon trees, mimosas, 
magnolias, green and cork oaks, all sorts of pines, trees from 
all climates, from every country, from the five parts of the 
world, caress and embrace one another, and spread with 
magic power, hiding all kinds of plants too splendid to be so 
sheltered from public view." 

At Lake Como she had her first quarrel with her cousin, 
who had joined them a few days before. They were sitting 
under the columns of a ruined sanctuary and Jean was 
eulogizing nature and the primitive Italian paintings. The 
love-lorn suitor began to descant upon the early anchorites. 
"Those men were poets," he declared. "They saw the infinite 
within themselves." "You believe," she interrupted, "in the 
poetry of men who detest nature, who find in it only what is 
rough, hard, intemperate, cruel. You are influenced, my 
cousin, by the frigid wall of the Church. Your spirit is grow 
ing cold. Take care." On his undertaking to show that 
asceticism was often a revolt against licentiousness, she cried 
out, "There is no virtue in solitude. It breeds nothing but 
egotism which gradually undermines the intellect. Selfish 
contemplation dries up the heart. ... To be a poet one must 
love nature. To be virtuous one must respect the principles 
of social men." She shocked him by her lack of enthusiasm 



JULIETTE LAMBER 263 

for the Christian faith, but she went on, "I have no faith in 
Christianity. If you want my frank opinion, woman ought 
to be an irreconcilable enemy of Christianity. All the dis 
trusts, all the wrongs, all the hatreds of Christian doctrine 
are directed against her. She is the great peril, the great temp 
tation, the great supporter of Satan. She is the sin, the evil, 
she and what she inspires love. Her beauty is a trial, her 
intelligence a snare, her sensibility a malefactor. The truth 
is, all the things that men desire, such as generosity, poetry, 
an artistic nature, are execrable to the believer in Chris 
tianity." To further questioning she declared triumphantly 
that she was a pagan not a pagan of the days of Pericles, 
but of the days of Homer, long before Greek civilization 
began. 

In Venice, where her cousin had his palace, and where 
she had hoped to find the realization of all her poetic fancy, 
she suffered a rude shock. She had expected a land of mystery, 
a city, to be sure, of lost power and of crushed pride, but 
still great in its fall and noble in its tattered emblems, a city 
with languorous charm, yet beautiful in its decay. Instead, 
she found a modern city where bustle and excitement jarred 
upon her nerves and even the gondoliers seemed to have no 
purpose except to pounce upon her luggage. "But you believe 
in progress, do you not?" asked her cousin. "Yes, in 
mechanics, in commerce and industry. I am sensible to 
progress in ice and fire, in food and locomotives, but I detest 
it in poetry. In poetry I love what is old and used and faded. 



264 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

I like the mouldy, the useless, the past. My conception of 
Venice was poetic, delicate, refined. I do not find it so, and 
I shall go away." 

So her romance was shattered. All the lavish entertain 
ment that her cousin provided wearied her. "All this festivity 
blinds, it does not attract, me." And her suitor was just a 
part of what repelled her. "You are a Venetian of Venice," 
she told him. "You are like your city, a little too modern, a 
little too handsome, a little too elegant, for me." 

Adam's last words to Juliette were an urgent request to 
continue in the effort to establish the principles of a liberal 
government for which he had always stood. To follow in 
his footsteps she required no bidding. In the ten years which 
they had spent together it would be hard to say which of 
them had been the vital force. To set up a republic based 
on universal suffrage had been the central feature of all 
their thoughts. According to their individual qualifications 
each had contributed to the cause. Adam's unswerving loy 
alty to his party, his freedom from personal ambition, his 
persistency in the face of opposition, had given him a com 
manding influence in the assemblee. Juliette through her 
gracious personality had secured the allegiance of a large 
circle of admirers who gathered around her at the Maison 
Sallandrouze. After the passing of Adam, in spite of her 
eagerness to carry out his wishes, she realized that a large 
part of her influence was gone. To keep his views on govern 
mental questions before the people she needed a wider forum 
than the social gatherings around her table. Adam had left 



JULIETTE LAMBER 265 

her an ample heritage and it seemed to her she could use it 
in no better way than by establishing a new periodical to 
uphold the republic which her husband had been so instru 
mental in placing on its feet. She broached the subject to 
Gambetta and he told her it was folly. "Do you intend in 
your paper to be as hostile to me personally as you are to 
my policies?" he asked. 

Her answer was: "Since my salon is growing less and less 
political, I shall naturally not speak much of you. In that 
way I shall avoid expressing harsh judgments; but, to be 
perfectly frank, as my pen is to take the place of my tongue, 
I shall give it freedom. Unable to speak the truth of you in 
my salon, I shall do so in my review." 

"That is almost a declaration of war." 

"No, it is a declaration of independence." 

The truth is, she was coming more and more to turn for 
counsel to her literary friends. "My salon is quite changed," 
she writes a few days later, "but it is no less vital than of 
old. Conversation has gained in brilliancy what it has lost 
in weight." It was in these surroundings that her new project 
found most favor, and as a result La nouvelle revue was 
founded with a purpose far more literary than political. 

George Sand years before had suggested to her that she 
start a fortnightly publication with the idea of encouraging 
new writers who were given the cold shoulder by the more 
conservative journals. Juliette resolved to make that purpose 
one of the important features in her experiment. It was started 
with a capital of five hundred thousand francs and among 



266 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

those who joined her in the enterprise were Victor Hugo, 
Flaubert, Coppee, and Alphonse Daudet. The first number ap 
peared in October, 1879, with a prospectus written by Juliette. 
Under such auspices it was not strange that the publication 
was successful almost from the start. More than any other 
periodical it enabled talented young writers to come before 
the public. Loti, Bourget, Tinayre, and Anatole France, all 
made their debut in La nouvelle revue. For twenty years 
after its foundation it occupied Juliette's attention to the ex 
clusion of everything else. She supervised all that appeared 
in its pages, and many of the articles were from her own pen. 
From 1885 till 1900 she wrote for each number a resume of 
foreign affairs. For a while her hatred of Bismarck was trans 
ferred to "perfidious Albion" whose policy, according to her, 
was to maintain the balance of power by encouraging the 
continental nations to war against any nation that was be 
coming formidable. 

In the issue of August 1, 1888, she stirred up a hornet's 
nest by publishing a secret report from Bismarck to his 
emperor opposing a prospective marriage between the emper 
or's daughter and Prince Henry of Battenberg. Bismarck 
denied the authenticity of the report, and in the next issue 
Juliette published a reply to Bismarck in which she used 
language that must have caused diplomats to gasp. "The 
proof of Bismarck's mendacity I have in my possession, and, 
should I pass away, other arms and other pens will rise to 
disprove the falsehoods of the most brazen liar of the two 
worlds." And she closes with these words: "But, lest Bis- 



JULIETTE LAMBER 267 

marck may think he is quite through with me, I promise that 
the tone of the German press will hereafter dictate my re 
sponse. Its attacks will provoke counter-attacks from me. To 
every slur I shall reply by a revelation." 

In the issue of September 1st, 1888, she published another 
letter of Bismarck which she said had been suppressed and 
which showed that Bismarck was playing politics behind the 
back of his emperor. This, of course, raised a storm of indig 
nation in Germany. Where she got these letters she did not dis 
close. The surprising thing is how she dared to attack so 
vigorously over her own name the most powerful man in 
Europe. 

In 1900 Juliette retired from management of La nouvelle 
revue and ceased writing articles for its pages. This did not 
mean that she was anywhere near her end. Nearly twenty 
years more of life were ahead of her. But she had reached 
the age when current problems pale into insignificance when 
confronted with memories of the past. As she looked Lack 
over the incidents of a crowded life she was forced to admit 
that many of her dreams had not come true. Her ambition 
to attain celebrity as a writer had stopped short of full suc 
cess. The idea of lifting women to a political equality with 
men had not entirely prevailed. The hope of recovering the 
lost provinces had been given up. But the establishment of 
the French republic, which through all her life had been her 
most persistent thought, had been triumphantly carried 
through. Of all these triumphs and disappointments Juliette 
had a daily record locked up in her safe. She had always 



268 SOME WOMEN OF FRANCE 

been in the habit of keeping a journal in which she jotted 
down her own impressions and the exact language of the men 
with whom she talked. To the editing of this journal she 
devoted the twelve years which followed her withdrawal 
from La nouvelle revue. As published, it comprised seven 
volumes, and it proved to be the most valuable of all her 
literary work. 

In one respect these souvenirs stand unique they were 
not dressed up to establish the truth or falsity of the writer's 
views. When they were given to the public Juliette had 
ceased to be a pagan, she had lost all confidence in Gambetta, 
she had come to see the folly of attempting to recover Alsace 
and Lorraine. But she makes no effort to suppress the 
vehemence of her discarded beliefs. That is the very essence 
of a diary's worth. To be of service it must reflect con 
temporary thought. Too often writers of history miss the real 
significance by giving undue weight to subsequent events. 
The main consideration is not what ultimately happened, but 
rather what the forces were by which men's actions were 
directed. 

There are those who carp at Juliette for encumbering the 
record with recitals of her own emotion. When the Prussian 
army was at the gates, she braved the perils of a journey to 
Granville that she might hold her daughter in her arms for 
one short hour before the siege began. When Gambetta 
visited her at The Briars she took him out into the fields, 
where they spent a whole afternoon in search of flowers, 
en Adam was on his death-bed she kept vigil through day 



JULIETTE LAMBER 269 

and night until his eyelids closed. Several pages of her diary 
tell us how her heart vibrated under the influence of these 
events. Each reader must determine from his own viewpoint 
whether the record was worth while. But it is this sort of rec 
ord that reveals the personality of the one who writes. 
Juliette was a woman for whom sentiment was the most im 
portant thing in life. No peril was ever able to shake her 
love for France. With starvation staring her in the face she 
continued to denounce as traitors those who counselled peace. 
And her courage never left her till the end. The World 
War found her with unabated determination to resist. All 
through the darkest days, when German bombs were once 
more falling on the capital, her country-seat near Paris was 
again the refuge of men and women who refused to give up 
hope. Through her efforts a home for permanently disabled 
French soldiers was established and she was chosen to be its 
first president. Unhappily she did not survive to witness the 
ultimate triumph of her cause. But just before her death she 
was comforted by a touching and well-merited tribute from 
the front. On the spot where France lost her first victim of 
the war a gun was set in place and on its pedestal was 
inscribed the pseudonym of the great patriot, Juliette Lamber.